Over 2,000 people turned out at the Plaza of Nations, Jul 30, for the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) first-ever Homopalooza celebration.
“I just think this event is so significant,” says Vancouver’s Buster Cherry, smiling broadly from ear to ear. “It’s a completely great way to kick off Pride Week. It’s going to be the opening event now, when it happens again next year. It has to happen again. It was very, very, nicely organized. Really, everything. It was really, really well done. It so has to happen again and again.”
Cherry is juiced with excitement after performing for an adoring crowd. He and the rest of his drag king troupe, $3 Bill, performed on the Homopalooza stage for what turned out to be one of the largest audiences they’ve ever faced.
“That was fun,” says Cherry. “We’re used to smaller venues and we were just shaking in our boots. You walk out into the 1,800 or so people here so far and we were completely freaked. The crowd was very responsive and it was just great.”
Rory Elliott has never been to a Pride event before, but her co-workers brought her out to Homopalooza and now she says she’s hooked.
“I think it’s awesome,” she beams. “I love watching people. I love watching the diversity. I live on The Drive so I see a lot of diversity already, but I think this just brings the whole city together. I’ve never been to Pride before because of work, but I’m planning to give ‘er this year.”
“I think it’s a good start for the first year,” says Vancouver’s Bob Christie. “It’s a good mix of people and I think the venue’s fun for this sort of thing. I think we’ve been lacking a decent beer-swilling party around Pride time, so it’s good to see it happen.”
Despite Vancouver’s normally restrictive liquor laws, Homopalooza partygoers were free to walk around the entire festival area with a cocktail in one hand and a smoke in the other if they so chose.
“We’ve had people come up to us asking where do we drink? Where do we smoke? Well anywhere,” says VPS president John Boychuk. “This entire area is for you to do as you wish, to relax and enjoy. You wanted an adult playground where you can relax, enjoy, be with friends, and this is what we provided.”
Although the much ballyhooed erotic tent city was really neither city-like nor particularly erotic, there were a few cool and kinky curiosities for those on the lookout.
Not everyone was completely delighted with every aspect of the event. The acoustics at the Plaza of Nations make for so much reverb that it can be difficult for performers to engage the crowd completely. That seemed to lead some to criticize the music.
“They should have more music that is not so overpowering,’ says Wayne Avery. “We came with a friend. As soon as he heard the music, he said, ‘I’m not going in. I’m an old man.’ Another thing is you can’t understand what they are saying.”
“It’s okay. The music’s not really my kind of music,” says Cameron Carrruthers. “I don’t mind the venue at all. I think this is a great place for a gathering. Maybe different entertainment and more fun music.”
Also stopping in for a quick schmooze was Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan. His worship sported a pink feather boa as he hobnobbed his way through the crowd.
“I didn’t want to be underdressed,” Sullivan told Xtra West. “I’m really excited about the week and the parade. Unfortunately, I’m going to be hiking, which is a long-standing thing that I planned, but I wanted to be here.”
Sullivan didn’t take the opportunity at Homopalooza to officially launch Pride Week with a written civic proclamation, but when asked about it, he said he would issue one. Boychuk says the VPS applied for the traditional nod from the city about a month ago, but hasn’t heard anything.
VPS board members stuck close by Sullivan as he worked the crowd. The VPS is eager to have the City of Vancouver designate Pride as a civic event after this year’s celebration. That designation would see the city absorb more of the high cost of staging the parade.
“I’d like to have that looked at by our staff,” said Sullivan when Xtra West asked him about the designation. “I think we’re trying to come up with a good policy framework for different events. It’s something that we’ll look at.”
Boychuk is confident that Homopalooza, which was a financial risk for the VPS, is going to at least pay for itself and will even leave the VPS with a few extra nuts for the winter.
“Our break-even point was about 1,600,” he says. “That will hopefully give us enough seed money to be able to plan for a festival like this again next year. The only thing we’re paying for is security, that’s why there’s the gate cost. Thankfully, we’ve been able to work out a deal with Edgewater Casino, so the stage is covered. At the end of the day, the gate is going to give us seed money, but at the same time it’s all looking excellent.”