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Fierté Montréal Pride hits its stride

Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker selected as parade grand marshal

Fierté Montréal’s weeklong Pride festival runs Aug 12 to 18. Credit: Courtesy of Fierté Montréal

The man who created the rainbow flag back in 1978 at the request of Harvey Milk still loves waving it.

“I’ve been a grand marshal in New York, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Key West, Vancouver, a lot of cities, and I never get tired of it,” says Gilbert Baker. “Each and every time I find it emotional because people exude such love, wave after wave. People love the flag, and as creator of the flag I get a lot of love.”

Baker will get a whole lot more adulation as the grand marshal of Fierté Montréal’s seventh annual Pride parade on Aug 18.

Montreal first held a Pride parade in 1979. When the city’s Divers/Cité festival organized the parade from 1993 to 2006, it introduced a minute of silence to honour victims of homophobia, as well as those too sick to attend, or deceased, because of HIV and AIDS. To this day it remains the emotional highlight of Montreal’s parade as the parade freezes and tens of thousands of spectators along the route fall so silent one can hear a pin drop.

Then 60 seconds later, the crowd comes alive with a big joyous roar.

Fierté Montréal’s weeklong Pride festival — which runs from Aug 12 to 18 — once again climaxes with the Pride parade. More than 130 organizations will participate in the parade, whose theme this year is Our Flag, Our Life: Rouge. The parade begins at 1pm on Sunday, Aug 18, and the minute of silence begins at 3pm sharp.

Fierté Montréal’s Dyke March is Aug 17 at 11am. It runs along Sainte-Catherine Street East in the heart of the gay village, where more than 100 LGBT organizations, community groups, businesses, sports clubs and sociocultural groups will also set up kiosks as part of Community Day.

Fierté Montréal is also presenting a series of free outdoor and ticketed indoor events. Montreal female impersonator Michel Dorion’s fifth annual C’est la Fête variety show on Aug 17 will feature performances by such local drag luminaries as Nana de Grèce, Mado Lamotte and Madonna dead-ringer Jimmy Moore, plus a special performance by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon.

Another big, free outdoor show this year is the second annual edition of Génération Boomer, which will celebrate Montreal’s 1950s and ’60s cabaret-club heyday. Performers include Claudette Dion (Céline’s sister) and Quebec pop icon Nanette Workman, the Mississippi blues legend who ended up in Montreal starring in Michel Plamondon’s rock opera Starmania in the late 1970s after years of dating Peter Frampton and Johnny Hallyday and recording with everybody from Elton John to the Rolling Stones.

“I had number-one songs, but I couldn’t sell an album,” says Workman, a long-time gay-rights supporter. “I’ve made about 20 albums, and they’ve never sold more than 20,000 copies [each]. So I said I might as well sing in English. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m a rock-blues singer. And that takes me back to my roots in Mississippi. It’s a way of life, and I’ll do it till the day I die.”

Other free outdoor events include the sixth annual edition of Dream Académie, featuring more than a dozen up-and-coming Montreal drag queens, and the colossal closing Mega T-Dance, with DJs Edil Hernandez and Aron, which will get packed as the Pride parade winds down in the Village.

Fierté Montréal is also presenting the Cinémathèque québécoise retrospective of Meow Mix, the iconic Montreal event “for bent girls and their friends” that was created by Miriam Ginestier in 1997 and ran until 2012. The Meow Mix retrospective runs Aug 13 to 16. Another week-long event of note is the fifth annual Café des Arts exhibition, showcasing five local LGBT artists, plus the work of rainbow-flag creator Gilbert Baker.

Last year’s hugely successful Literary Pride series is also back and will feature 10 authors, including Quebec literary icon Michel Tremblay, who will speak on Aug 15.

In addition, Fierté Montréal is presenting the Queer Comics Conference, featuring Ottawa and Montreal Comiccon programmer Sophie Delmas discussing queer relationships and characters in Western graphic media, with a focus on Marvel and DC Comics superheroes.

Trans events include the Cuir as F*CK play party for women and trans people in a private dungeon, as well as Lucas Silveira and his band The Cliks, headlining Cabaret Underworld on Aug 14.