After breaking their attendance records last year, Edmonton Pride organizers have set high goals for this year’s event.
“We have the best Pride between Vancouver and Toronto,” claims Matthew Malek, who has been chair of the Edmonton Pride Week Society for a little under a year. He adds that he thinks Edmonton has “the fourth best Pride in Canada behind Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.”
While that’s all up for debate, organizers are planning for this year’s parade attendance to increase by 3,000, up from about 9,000 last year. Malek, who has been involved with Pride for four years, says Edmonton Pride’s future success lies in being fiscally responsible and organized — enabling the organization to receive grants, attract sponsorship and retain committed involved board members.
With this year’s theme, “Age of Aqueerious,” the Pride Week Society hopes to conjure up the spirit of 1960s on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and the decriminalization of gay sex in Canada. Considering the current political climate of Alberta, brotherly love and sister solidarity is more important now than ever. This year has already seen the cancellation of Alberta’s gender reassignment surgery program and the passage of Bill 44, which would allow parents to opt their children out of classes on sexual orientation.
“We want people to get hippy again,” says Malek. “In the past we [queer people] have felt that we have to withhold. Pride is a reminder that we don’t have to be ashamed.”
Helping people get into the spirit of groovier times, the week will feature a variety of events including the Edmonton Queer History Bus Tour hosted by Darrin Hagen. Also lined up is a screening of Resident Alien, the classic doc about queer icon Quentin Crisp, as part of Queer Images.
Pride will kick off with the HIV Edmonton Pride Awards where local members of the queer community will be honoured for their involvement in the community.
But the increasing success of Pride comes with greater expectations for the nine-day event. Event promoter Sean Thompson says he would like more events that offer an alternative to the bar scene.
His frustration is not aimed solely at the Pride Week Society but at the community large. “People need to take more initiative,” Thompson explains. “People are just waiting for interesting things to happen but they need to go out and create it. Diversity is right there, you just have to kick start it.”
Over a year ago, Thompson started a monthly Beers for Queers night at The Empress on Whyte Ave, a hip street not known for being overly welcoming to the queer community.
Earlier this month when he tried to get Beers for Queers on the Pride calendar he was met with resistance. For events to be listed on the Edmonton Pride Week Society’s calendar the event host needs to be a Pride sponsor. To be listed for free on the calendar the event needs to either be unique to Pride or hosted by a non-profit community group. Thompson says this punishes for small upstarts and diverse ideas.
Malek offers his side in response to Thompson’s criticism. “The bigger you get the less of a chance you will please everyone,” he says. “Any decision we make will be met with criticism. I invite people with issues to join the board or a working committee.”
Edmonton Pride Week runs from Jun 12 to 21. The parade takes place Sat, Jun 13 at 2pm along Jasper Ave. For more information visit edmontonpride.ca. Xtra.ca will be at the parade — check back Mon, Jun 15 for our photo gallery.