2 min

Davie Day a hit

New festival attracts full mix from community

Credit: Gareth Kirkby

Monsoon season returned to Vancouver last Friday night, and organizers of the first-ever Davie Day tossed in their sleep as they worried about the next day’s festivities. They needn’t have lost sleep: as Randy Atkinson and Alan Herbert approached the festival site the morning of Sep 11, a giant rainbow traversing the length of Davie St greeted them.

“We knew Davie St really is Oz,” quipped Herbert, a former city councillor who co-hosted a democratic planning exercise-known as a ‘charette’-for the festival.

And Oz appeared to be the right metaphor for the Saturday events. Davie Day attracted a wide-ranging cross-section to its festivities. Kids bounced in the air trampolines in the cul-de-sac of Bute St north of Davie, while singers and drag queens performed on a temporary stage set up in the south-side cul-de-sac. Participants donned buttons boasting, “I am Davie Village.”

And the planning charette attracted overflow crowds. Nearby residents joined with visiting gays to give their two-cents worth about how they’d like to see Davie Village evolve and emerge as a distinct neighbourhood with special designation from city hall. Ideas ranged from greening the neighbourhood rooftops to creating a park-mall on Bute St; from addressing underlying issues causing homelessness and crime in the neighbourhood to creating a lively entertainment and tourist focus on the street; and from enhancing Davie St’s status as Vancouver region’s “capital city for gays” while also respecting other diverse communities throughout the West End.

Gays, seniors, disabled people, children, merchants, tenants-all showed up by the hundreds, creating a rainbow of diversity at the festivities.

Mildred Irene Taylor, a longtime volunteer with the West End Seniors’ Network worked a booth from her wheelchair. She was impressed with Davie Day.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Taylor gushed. “I think it’s great. Everything is all combined-everybody is involved. There’s no discrimination of any kind. Everyone says ‘Hello,’ to everybody. It’s like meeting one big family.”

Numerous participants told Xtra West that the “vibe” of the day, as so many different groups of people mixed, was what most impressed them. The specific events and booths also received praise.

“It’s very good for the first year,” said Peter Kang, owner of Davie Photo, who was checking out the entertainment. “Every year it’ll get more.”

And the gay participants?

“I love it,” said Grant Tkachuk. “It’s bringing the community together and it’s not just a part of the community, not just the gay community. It’s everyone.”

Another participant said he can imagine the day when Davie Day is as big as the Castro Fair in San Francisco.

Drag diva Joan-E checked out the party before delivering a stage performance. “Any outdoor festival that is not in a dark club and can accommodate all members of a community, especially children, is A1 in my books.”

The event proves Vancouver is getting more cosmopolitan, she said. City hall has learned they “can keep people safe but not shut down a good time. This wouldn’t have happened five or 10 years ago.”

Joan-E said she’d like to see a Davie St beer garden on the Saturday before the Pride march, in addition to further growth of the Davie Day festival. The Oasis kept alive the beer-garden flame by converting their alley parking-lot into a high-energy licensed patio.

Merchants surveyed by Xtra West reported an increase in sales the day of the fair.

Lorne Mayencourt’s pancake fundraiser on behalf of Youthquest raised approximately $400 for the youth group. Christy Clark, BC minister of child and family development, announced $35,000 in new core funding for the organization. Youthquest suffered a major cutback in provincial funding in 2002.