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Edmonton celebrates Pride, ’60s style

Hippies, tie-dye, peace signs and protest!

The spirit of the 1960s was alive and well as thousands took part in Edmonton’s Pride parade and “celebration in the square” — cornerstore events of the city’s Age of Aqueerious Pride Week Festival.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 spectators lined Jasper Ave on Jun 13 to take in the spectacle. Running over eight blocks with over 60 entries (up from 51 in 2008) the 2009 parade was animated with peace signs, tie-dye everything, hippies in hot pants, beatniks in drag, and in true ’69 fashion — protesters!

“Stonewall was not sponsored by TD Bank” read one sign referring to the Edmonton Pride Week Society’s decision to accept a deal that saw TD Bank of Canada gain title sponsorship over the day.

Some of the parade highlights included Play Nightclub’s love generation inspired float with its huge peace sign, HIV Edmonton’s Hair-esque “One Tribe, One World, One Love” float and The Empress Ale House’s Queer Bus — a yellow school bus decked out to look like an acid road trip caravan from 40 years ago.

The parade ended at Sir Winston Churchill Square in front of Edmonton’s City Hall, where over 4,000 people took in the marketplace booths, caught shade under umbrellas and in the spray tent, waited up to 45 minutes to get into the beer tents and danced along with the live entertainment. Performers included Edmonton’s finest drag queens and one of the city’s most beloved bands The Wet Secrets.

Before kicking off the entertainment, Vancouver-Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry reminded the crowd that 1969 was not just the year of Stonewall but also the year homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada. During the opening remarks, a group of activists protested the presence of Edmonton-Glenora Progressive Conservative MLA Heather Klimchuk, whose party has recently come under fire from the city’s queer community. This spring, the provincial government delisted gender reassignment surgery and enshrined sexual orientation into Alberta’s human rights act, at the cost of adding a controversial clause that allows parents to withdraw their kids from classes on sexuality and sexual orientation.

But as Pride continued in Sir Winston Churchill Square, the party spilled into the streets of Edmonton, and one couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to “Age of Aquarius”: “When the moon is in the Seventh House / And Jupiter aligns with Mars / Then peace will guide the planets / And love will steer the stars.”