4 min

Highlights of Capital Pride

New programming alongside festival favourites

Plan ahead for sun, skin and fun at this year’s Capital Pride. Credit: Ben Welland

Capital Pride is upon us, bringing 10 days of rainbows and glitter to Ottawa. In addition to such tried and true favourites as the parade and community fair, organizers have added exciting new programming to the mix, including international films, an educational conference and a visit from the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Kicking it all off, Ottawa will be awash with rainbows as the city’s public services show support for the community with flag raisings all across town on Monday, Aug 18. The day will start early, with a 6am pancake breakfast at Ottawa Police Service headquarters (474 Elgin St), followed by flag raisings at OC Transpo (10:15am), Ottawa Fire Services (12:30pm; with barbecue) and Ottawa Paramedic Service (2:15pm), culminating in the Pride proclamation and flag-raising ceremony at Ottawa City Hall (110 Laurier Ave) at 4pm to mark the official start of Pride Week. A double-decker Pride bus will be available to shuttle revellers to each event.

“I started raising the flag the first time I was mayor, back in the 1980s,” says Mayor Jim Watson. “I think it’s important that the mayor and city councillors and chiefs of police and fire and paramedic show their support for the GLBTQ community, not just during Pride Week, but throughout the year.”

Cinephiles will want to check out a series of queer foreign films being screened in partnership with the Dutch, Swedish and Argentine embassies, Aug 18 to 20 at the ByTowne Cinema (325 Rideau St). This will be followed by a special Village Movie Night featuring To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (Aug 22), a camp classic presented by the American Embassy and the Bank Street BIA.

Another new Pride initiative this year is the Free to Learn GLBT+ Conference, which will feature trans activist Stephanie Battaglino and mountaineer Cason Crane, the international grand marshal of the Pride parade. The conference, which is free, takes place Wednesday, Aug 20, 3–10pm, at Extended Stay Ottawa (141 Cooper St).

“Our clear view this year was to bring the festival back to the community. We really wanted to bring it down more to a smaller scale,” says conference organizer Stephanie Lavergne. She says that in addition to lectures, the conference will include workshops by community partners (check for details) followed by a reception where attendees can mingle with the speakers.

Battaglino, the event’s keynote speaker, says she hopes the conference will inspire attendees to be better allies. “It’s all about education. The need for education is great, [and] the need for education is ongoing.”

The annual Human Rights Vigil, held at the Canadian Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug 21, at 8pm. The vigil will focus on this year’s Pride theme — Free to Love — and what that means for LGBT people around the world. Battaglino will also be hosting the vigil, which she says is an important time to remember the struggles of those in the transgender community. “I see that very much as another Transgender Day of Remembrance in many respects,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all need to be respected as human beings.”

Hot on the heels of their star-studded Glow Fair, the Bank Street BIA will pump up the Pride atmosphere by resurrecting the Rainbow Party on Friday, Aug 22, at 10pm, bringing an evening of high-powered fun to Barrymore’s Music Hall (323 Bank St).

“We’re going to try to jazz it up a little bit,” says BIA head Christine Leadman. “Barrymore’s is such a cool building inside . . . I think that for this type of [event] it’s perfect. We’re really excited about the Rainbow Party coming back.” Popular Montreal DJ Stephan Grondin (who will also play the Pride Main Stage on Sunday) will be spinning beats, and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Courtney Act will add a touch of glamour to the evening.

The brightest gem in the Capital Pride tiara is the parade, which, for only the second time, will make its way through the official gay village. “I know for the community it means a lot to have it in the Village,” says parade coordinator Tova Larsen. “It’s very, very symbolic. It’s the main reason that I pushed so hard last year to change the parade route.”

The parade starts at 1pm at the corner of Bank and Gladstone, travels north on Bank Street, turns east on Laurier Avenue, and finishes at Marion Dewar Plaza at city hall (110 Laurier Ave W). For those looking to stake out a sweet spot to watch the spectacle pass by, Larsen suggests claiming a place on Bank Street, after James but before Laurier, and avoiding congested areas at the beginning and end of the route.

The community fair, in Marion Dewar Plaza after the parade, is a throwback to a time when Pride was little more than a picnic. “The community fair really is an important part of Pride because it gives businesses and community groups the opportunity to come together, promote [and] celebrate what they do year-round for the LGBT community,” organizer Ashley Blackwood says. Familiar faces from Bruce House, the Ottawa Senior Pride Network and the Ottawa Frontrunners will be setting up booths alongside small-business owners and pet rescue groups. Admission is $5.

The Capital Pride Main Stage, also at Marion Dewar Plaza, will feature live entertainment both Saturday, Aug 23, and Sunday, Aug 24.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons will kick off entertainment on Saturday, with queens from past seasons, including Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio and finalist Adore Delano, duking it out onstage.

“The show is going to be incredible,” says House of SAS producer Sebastien Provost, whose production company is overseeing the main event. “I really want to keep that energy going, and I’m trying to tell a story with the entertainment. What you’re going to see . . . is a highly polished show that will really build on the energy of the parade.”

Big names gracing the stage on Sunday include performance artist and fashion icon Amanda Lepore, rapper Cazwell, acclaimed Canadian DJ Stephan Grondin and Grammy winning producer/DJ Hex Hector. Local talent includes drag action from the Capital Kings and burlesque from Capital Tease.

Main stage admission is $10 on Saturday, including next-day readmission, and $5 on Sunday.