After years of focusing on the Pride festival, Capital Pride (CP) parade coordinator Tova Larsen wants to “bring the parade back” and put renewed emphasis on what used to be the centrepiece of the celebrations.
“Pride really began with the parade,” Larsen explains. “We focused so much as a festival on the festival grounds over the past number of years.”
Larsen commends last year’s parade coordinator, Murray Lavigne, for his outstanding work but adds, “There hasn’t been somebody sitting on the board really advocating on behalf of the parade.”
For many attendees, the parade is Pride, she says; it’s a powerful gathering that helped change her life.
“I came out late in life,” says Larsen, who is bisexual. “My first time coming to a Pride parade — all of a sudden it gave me so much hope that I could be like the people in the parade. I could walk down the street; I could tell everybody that I know that I was queer and that my life would be amazing.”
The parade is also an important touchstone for allies, she says, pointing out that the parade allows children to connect with the community in “a really family-friendly, fun way.”
This year’s route is one of the longest in memory, and Larsen says she always has “grand plans — the bigger, the better.”
The Pride parade will begin at the intersection of Gladstone and Bank streets, turn right onto Laurier Avenue West and end at the festival grounds at Ottawa City Hall.
“The route that we ended up with is one that does everything that we want, going through the Village and being really visible,” Larsen says. “Bank Street also has the wonderful community feel to it; with two lanes, sidewalks, lots of little shops. It’s got the main-street feel that makes our parade really exciting.”
Some community members remember the days when the parade travelled by Parliament Hill. While the visual impact of that route was undeniable, Larsen says running the parade in front of the country’s political hub simply isn’t feasible in 2013.
“We’ve come a long way as a society, from a security standpoint, for our federal buildings both in the US and Canada,” she says. “The things we used to be able to do 20 years ago — like drive up on the Hill — we can’t do that anymore. We need to be mindful of the climate in which we live. The city, the police, bylaw; we partner with them to put on the festival. So it’s in our best interest to work with them as much as possible.”
This year’s parade will be reviewed by a panel of judges, who will select the winners for the best motorized float, best marching contingent and most creative entries. Last year’s Best Float winners, the contingent from Mister Leather Ottawa, will have a special placement of distinction in the parade.
The decision to distinguish between marching contingents and actual floats was a move to level the playing field, Larsen says.
“It’s very hard to compare an apple to an orange, when you are looking at a group of enthusiastic marchers versus someone who has a flatbed truck.”
Parade attendees can vote for the People’s Choice Award by picking up ballots, available on the parade route or at the festival grounds. The ballot box is located near the festival ground’s bar.
Larsen is aiming to register 100 floats and marching groups this year.
“For all the glory that I get for throwing a huge parade, the glory is totally misplaced,” she says. “It all belongs with each of the organizations that go through tireless hours of balloon sticking and covering things in rainbows. We want to encourage and celebrate the creativity and fun that those floats bring.”