Thousands of dykes and allies filled Commercial Dr for the eighth annual Dyke March and Festival on July 30. Some of the marchers drummed and chanted; others wore little more than sunscreen, rainbow accessories, sparkly body paint and smiles.
“It’s important to show people how much pride the community has,” says Sarah Hills, 31. “When you walk by and see people in their houses watching and smiling, it’s great!”
“It’s important,” Bon Fabian agrees. “It is our own little community, and we are all part of the big wheel.”
“It’s very important for the whole rainbow colour of our community,” echoes lesbian city Councillor Ellen Woodsworth.
Woodsworth, along with lesbian politicians Libby Davies and Mable Elmore, hosted a fundraiser in June that raised close to $3,000 for the Dyke March and Festival.
“I feel like I am able to be open and relaxed and safe,” she says, when asked why the march, in jeopardy earlier this year because of flagging community participation, is worth saving. “It’s rare that you can feel safe in this world and be an out lesbian.”
Shelley Barber, 35, and her friends Dawn Perrott, 34, and Nina De Lucca, 28, enjoyed the live music resonating from the post-march festival stage in Victoria Park.
“It’s nice to have so many people come together,” Perrott says. “You have the older people, the younger people and people with children and families attending. It’s a party in the park!”
American visitor Ellen Pontac enjoyed her first Vancouver Dyke March with her partner of 37 years, Shelly Bails. Three years ago, the couple were the first lesbians to get married in California.
Pontac says the Dyke March had a good vibe. “It’s a feeling of pride and a feeling of community and empowerment. We had no idea how many marchers there would be, and this is really wonderful,” she says, beaming.
Cherryse Magdalina was the picture of happiness as she walked around the festival site. The trans woman and self-described naturist sported a bare chest with sparkly body paint. “I feel so wholesome. I feel liberated. I feel such freedom from the shame and the negativity and the indoctrination.”
Magdalina, who is scheduled for gender reassignment surgery in November, says she couldn’t be prouder of being a trans woman. “All I want for Christmas is my own pussy!” she laughs.
Kim Strathopolous and her fiancée, Krystal Winstanley, were found enjoying the sun and fun the weekend before their wedding.
“It’s getting better and bigger,” Strathopolous says of the festival.
Vancouver Dyke March and Festival Society president Sam Levy was also pleased with the turnout.
“It’s fabulous!” she says. “I’m very excited about what we have going on. The crowd looks bigger than last year, which is wonderful.”
Levy says that this year the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) formed a new partnership with the Dyke March organizers. She credits the VPS for donating resources such as tents and Porta-Potties, which helped make this year’s march and festival possible.
“The Dyke March came to us a few months back and let us know that they were struggling, and what we said was, ‘What can we do to help?’” says VPS president Ken Coolen. “So we just helped them by providing some logistical stuff for them.”
Levy also credits the seven new board members who stepped up to help organize the event after the dwindling board asked the community for help.
Just a few months ago, the Dyke March and Festival was facing almost certain demise because of low funds and a lack of interest from community members willing to participate in organizing the event. In May, event organizers hosted an open house, calling on members of the community to step up and help make this year’s march and festival happen.
While the event hasn’t been completely transformed by the advent of new members on its board, Levy expects to see more changes in the future.
“Next year we will be doing a lot more things from information gathered at the town hall,” she says, adding that this year’s festival-goers also filled out surveys about what they’d like to see at future events.
But next year, Levy says, she won’t be making event decisions since she will not be returning to the board when her term ends.
“I do not plan to be on the board for 2012,” she reveals. “I’ve given a lot over the years, and personally, I’m ready for a break. I think it’s time for new blood and new energy to continue to grow and reflect the community.”
Also resigning are festival stage coordinator Trigger and treasurer Tamara Shoup.