4 min

Hot, loud and long

Pride Parade attracts estimated 150,000

ROAR OF THUNDER. Dykes on bikes added their much anticipated sound, action and bare tits to kick off the parade. Credit: Wendy D

It began, as it always does in Vancouver, with the faint murmur of rolling thunder signalling the fast approach of dykes on bikes. Spectators craned their necks, their anticipation fulfilled, as the parade advanced down Denman St and Pacific Blvd.

An amassed crowd of up to 150,000 took to the streets and Sunset Beach Sunday to let loose and enjoy the local gay scenery-in its varied splendour. The number of parade entries remained about the same as last year-135-but the number of floats was down, according to the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS). The parade itself was nearly three-and-a-half hours-too long for some observers who retreated from the sun.

Pride spokesperson Steven Schelling was happy with the different approach taken in a lot of the entries compared to recent years.

“Money was a problem for a lot of people, so instead of money we saw creative. There was a lot of interacting with the crowd,”

The biggest applause was, in fact, evoked by choreographed performances and not for extravagant floats.

The Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps from Boston won the Community/Individual prize as they tossed and twirled toy rifles to the cheers of the crowd.

The crowd’s energy was fed by the loud music of club floats, especially those of the Odyssey and Celebrities. Bleary eyed partygoers were reminded of their past nights’ festivities as the bass rolled by.

Pam G, who has been attending pride festivities in Vancouver for 12 years noticed an increase in diversity on the floats.

“Nowadays I see there are more women on the boy’s floats,” she smiled. “It’s changing from just gay to queer identity.”

The VPD, led by Chief Constable Jamie Graham and gay liaison Constable Chris Smith, threw Crimestoppers Frisbees to an enthusiastic crowd. The chief’s throw was excellent: his Frisbees often soared as high as overhead balconies.

Political representation was also strong again this year. Protocol-which has always given the front positioning to city hall representatives-was broken this year as gay Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt (high atop a fire truck) followed closely on the heels of parade marshall Garry Penny. Then came a contingent of police before city hall’s representatives, Mayor Larry Campbell and city councillors Jim Green and Tim Stevenson decked out in tartan. To some observers it appeared that Mayencourt was under police escort.

Mayencourt was given a tepid response as he handed out water from the fire truck. Last year, the activist group Queers United Against Kapitalism (QUAK) tailed Mayencourt, encouraging the crowd to boo the MLA over his party’s social policies. Tension did not run as high this year as QUAK instead registered their own marching group and walked with another activist group,

“We are proud to have QUAK registered this year and they actually came third for political group,” says VPS president Shawn Ewing,

QUAK was also greeted by some of the largest cheers from the crowds.

The NDP marching group was greeted enthusiastically as federal leader Jack Layton marched in the parade with wife Olivia Chow and local MLA Jenny Kwan.

It seemed however that the parade was not focussing as strongly on political statements as last year, when same-sex marriage rights provided an issue to unite marchers and watchers alike. And while overtly political banners about marriage rights were less common, the business potential of marriage was more visible. One parade entry, by a wedding planning company, featured a horse-drawn carriage.

The parade also appeared to put an emphasis on family-oriented marching squads and community groups.

Members of the crowd noted that community groups seemed to be networking more this year. Organizers agreed, noting that coordinated registration allowed more groups in similar categories to march together.

The diversity of entries underlined the options available to Vancouver lesbians and gays. There is something for everyone, noted Dana, a visitor from Victoria who comes over to Vancouver every year for Pride.

The Kings of Vancouver were on the Festival Stage as the bulk of the people arrived after the parade.

Busy tents included the Utilikilts vendor from Seattle and a vendor selling orange “cocksickles” that were sloppily slurped up in the hot weather.

While the stage provided entertainment until 6 pm, some commented that the festival still had a look-see-leave feel to it.

“Besides the booths and single stage, some people want more interaction and participation in the events,” says Dana.

Last year’s parade featured a Davie St block party after the beach festival. Though the Pride Society cut it this year, the Davie Village Business Improvement Association announced a mini-party featuring popular local singer Kim Kuzma. It never materialized, and people who showed up for the festivities were clearly frustrated.

Vancouver resident Chris Poulos believes a street party would help build the gay community.

“A street party for the neighbourhood would be perfect in this way for people to come together. There are a lot of expensive events going on otherwise,” Poulos says. “Many people are hitting the local bars and looking to hang out with friends.”

The BIA did manage to unveil pink bus stops just in time for Pride. The colour was selected to add a playful feel to the Davie village.

Ewing believes this year’s Pride was a great success, but acknowledges some setbacks as well. While the VPS stabilized financially this year, they suffered from a lack of human resources.

“The entire parade was run by 15 people and the festival by 30. Twelve of those people were VPS board members,” says Ewing. “Why did people not want to volunteer this year?”

Schelling agrees that the lack of volunteers made the planning difficult.

“To take on such a huge undertaking with a board of about 13 people. . . . That’s not enough to put on a parade, festival and street fair. But [city hall] is on our side for the future and we are trying to do something next year. Our primary concern is that every event that we do is safe and fun.”

And safe it was, says Insp Val Harrison, the top cop for the West End. There were no reported gaybashings all weekend-from either Pride festivities or the fireworks, she reports.