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Fun for the weeee ones

New family programming over Pride

Mommies want to ride their bikes down Yonge St and push their strollers up Church St. Daddies can appreciate an appearance by the Charmin Bear at the Church Street Junior Public School and the other kind of bears who come to O’Grady’s on Friday nights. Bikes and bears are easy enough to come by during Pride month, and parents will find strollers and mascots more common with increased offerings for queer families this year.

Both the 519 Community Centre and 918 Bathurst, a new culture and education centre, are introducing family-friendly events to celebrate Pride. The 519’s first annual Queer Family Pride Party is on Tue, Jun 23 and 918 Bathurst’s the We Are Family event is Sat, Jun 20. In addition Pride Toronto once again hosts Family Pride in the schoolyard at Church and Alexander streets on Sat, Jun 27 and 28.

The 519 used to have a fun fair earlier in June, but planners wanted to have an event during Pride Week. The Queer Family Pride Party came about to create more family-friendly spaces, says Julia Gonsalves, the centre’s program supervisor of children and family services, to give families a chance to do something fun on a weekday and offer a smaller, more community-based gathering.

The afternoon and evening event will include musical performances by Done with Dolls (a four-member band of 11- and 12-year-old girls) and local ska band Random Order. Face painting, a curling demo (with rocks on wheels) and the first-ever Kids’ Pride Parade are also planned. 

We Are Family will be one of the first events presented by 918 Bathurst, launching its Family Tradition Series (the next happening, the Love Show, will be in November).

“We Are Family is something that celebrates diversity,” says Li Koo, director of 918 Bathurst, “and celebrates that families can be anything.”

Koo says 918 Bathurst aspires to be an all-inclusive space, one that inspires people to take a holistic view — personal, professional, mental and emotional — of their lives.

The We Are Family schedule includes life-size chess, a family photo shoot and laughter yoga as well as improv theatre, hula hoops and, to recognize everyone’s inner king or queen, crown making. Clara Engel and Avid Hands will perform, and at 3:30pm there will be a free screening of Nancy Nicol’s film Politics of the Heart, a documentary about gay and lesbian parents in Quebec and their advocacy for equal rights. 

“All of our programming is intergenerational,” says Koo. “It’s about getting families together, [getting] children to be with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.”

Family Pride has been part of the week’s festivities for almost 10 years. What started as a low-key get-together of families having picnics or watching the activities on Church St has evolved into a much more dynamic gathering.

“I’ve been told to expect 1,500 families over the course of two days,” says Meghan Rees, Family Pride coordinator.

How can the growing presence of children change Pride?

For Koo, she regrets Pride changing from a grassroots event to something more corporate. She wants to promote gay culture outside of the traditional Church St scene. 

“I think that [having more family-friendly events] broadens who comes to Pride,” says Rees. “Maybe childcare was an issue or they wanted to be involved but were not comfortable.” With more kid-centric activities, she adds, “the younger generation can take part, and do things on their level.”