4 min

Homopalooza unveiled

VPS aims to appeal to a kinkier, adult crowd

A BOLD GAMBLE: VPS president John Boychuk and vice president Aviva Lazar are betting Homopalooza will be a big draw for the queer community Credit: Matt Mills photo

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) plans to revamp its QueerCoustic event this year and move it to the Plaza of Nations where it will include a huge 4,000-seat beer garden, more adult-orientated entertainment, and an erotic tent city. The event, which happens the weekend before the traditional Pride Parade and festival, will also have a new name: Homopalooza.

“Our online survey tells us people want to see more entertainment,” VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West May 17. “They want to see more adult-oriented activities. They want beer gardens and frivolity. They want food. They want it all, and we’ve decided to address that this year.”

Boychuk says 40 sex industry vendors and safer sex-promoting community organizations will make up the erotic tent city. As well as the usual popular music, the stage performances will include “some burlesque,” community artists and drag performers.

“It’s not going to be raw and raunchy by any means,” says Boychuk. “But we want to take it to the next level and have some appeal to those who don’t feel they fit into any of our other events. You can be yourself in this adult venue. That’s not to say you can’t be yourself on the parade route or at the festival at Sunset Beach, but there won’t be any children at Homopalooza.”

Although the demand for beer gardens among Pride goers has always exceeded the supply, past efforts have either been financially crippling to the Pride Society, thwarted by liquor control laws, or both. But Boychuk says the VPS has negotiated a solution that will get a beer garden for the community without exposing the society to such a huge financial risk.

Vancouver concert promoter John Donnelly, the Plaza of Nations and the Edgewater Casino will manage the beer garden and be responsible for security, service, insurance for the beer garden itself, and booze, while the VPS will be responsible for the rest of the venue and revenues from the gate and erotic tent city. That way, the VPS won’t be on the hook for the beer garden costs should something go haywire.

The Edgewater Casino has steadily lost money since it opened 15 months ago and is in a precarious financial position, but Boychuk says the Homopalooza beer garden deal is protected from any ownership or management changes at the casino.

Homopalooza will still need a significant VPS investment for things like staging, fencing and entertainment, but Boychuk is confident the entry fees for the erotic vendors, advance ticket sales and gate receipts will cover the expenses.

“Because this is a gated adult venue, we are faced with a few fiscal challenges,” he says. “There will be early bird wristbands available starting in June for $5. To get into an event like this normally costs anywhere from $15-$30. We didn’t want to gouge the community. We didn’t want to make it unreasonable for people.”

As for the entertainment, Boychuk says the VPS is still in negotiations with local entertainers. He’s been encouraged by the community response and has some interesting “tasteful” adult acts lined up. He says the entertainment lineup will be released in the coming weeks, but for this year, there are no plans to book a big-name headliner.

“The whole idea is we’re not going to go bust and spend tens of thousands of dollars on entertainment at this point,” he says. “That would be a huge risk for the VPS.”

The 2005 financial results for the VPS left the society with almost $25,000 to invest in new projects like Homopalooza, and although he’s not ready to release details, Boychuk says the VPS’ sponsorship efforts are also bearing extra fruit this year.

“We’ve got some great support from the community and the corporate world,” he says. “That has allowed us to be able to look at doing Homopalooza. The part that is really killing us is the insurance. That’s the tough part.”

Boychuk says, for example, the premium just for the parade’s city-mandated $5-million liability protection will likely cost the VPS about $28,000. He says negotiations for the fairest insurance deal are ongoing, but that it will likely be the VPS’ biggest expense this year. He says insurance is the main reason it costs money to enter a float into the parade.

When asked if the VPS may have bitten off more than it can chew, Boychuk has a ready answer.

“Because we are not keeping this all in-house–because we’re working with experts in the community, we’re working with people who do this on a professional level, we have advisors on all this–it relieves some of the stress.” And when asked if the VPS will finish the year in the black, he says: “Yes. Our budgets have been very tight. Our treasurer is continually saying ‘no, you can’t spend that. You can’t just go and do whatever.'”

As for the traditional parade and festival on Pride Day, Boychuk says revellers will only notice a few minor changes. The parade route will officially start at the corner of Robson and Denman. The majority of the marshalling area will be on Robson instead of on the residential side-streets off Denman.

The parade will follow its usual route along Denman and Pacific to Sunset Beach ending at Thurlow. That will add a couple of extra blocks at each end of the parade route that may allow for more elbow room for spectators.

“This way we don’t take away from Denman St,” says Boychuk. “We don’t take away from Robson St. We actually bring more business to Robson, for coffee shops and small corner stores, while alleviating some of the stress along Denman and at King George School.”

The festival at Sunset Beach will be unchanged.

There are no plans for a formal Pride Day celebration on Davie St this year, but Boychuk says it’s one of the VPS’ dreams for future years. And as Xtra West goes to press, the VPS has possession of new office space in the heart of the Davie Village at 1033 Davie St. The same big, queer building is also home to the LGTB Generations Project, Positive Women’s Network, the Davie Village Business Improvement Association, a host of queer real estate agents and medical professionals, and Xtra West.