3 min

In the black

Vancouver Pride Society looks to a new parade route

Credit: Robin Perelle

It’s been a good year, president Shawn Ewing tells the dozen-or-so members of the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) who attended this year’s annual general meeting, Oct 23. “We were able to retire all [our] debt, plan and successfully execute 11 Pride events and end the year with a surplus.”

As of Saturday morning, VPS treasurer Barry Piersdorff confirms, the Pride Society has $31,000 in the bank, free and clear, and a total accounting surplus of $45,208.

That’s a significant change from last year’s financial situation, which saw the VPS still clawing its way out of a $107,000 deficit hole.

This year’s surplus is the result of very careful planning, Ewing and Piersdorff say. In contrast to the poor planning of some previous years, this year’s board evaluated all prospective events against the dual criteria of fiscal responsibility and community value. All plans were “dissected, bisected, [put] over the microscope, under the microscope,” Ewing says. And, once approved, plans were “constantly reported on and revisited and re-revisited,” Piersdorff adds.

As a result, though cash sponsorships and donations dropped by almost $30,000 this year, the VPS still managed to come out in the black. It even has rent money already lined up for the early new year (a notoriously dicey time for VPS cash flow).

“In three years, we’ve gone from a $107,000 deficit to a $45,000 surplus,” Piersdorff reiterates.

A closer look at the Society’s latest financial statement shows this year’s Pride events made a total of $93,227 and cost just $73,595 to stage, down from last year’s costs of about $107,000 and $261,000 the year before. In other words, instead of draining money out of the VPS, this year’s events paid for themselves overall and some even made a profit.

The festivals, however, did not fare so well. The post-Parade festival at Sunset Beach, Stonewall on the Drive, Picnic in the Park and Queer-Coustic in Alexandra Park all lost money. But “these events had to happen,” Piersdorff says, noting that the board anticipated their shortfall and got a $5,000 festival grant from the city to offset it. (The festivals still came up $1583 short at the end of the day.)

But the festivals are important to the community, Ewing emphasizes. The Stonewall event, in particular, was important because it reached out past the VPS’ usual sphere to include the east side in the Pride celebrations.

Still, some proposed festivals didn’t make the cut. The board cancelled plans for a second annual Davie St Fair because the VPS couldn’t risk having to absorb the potential losses again. The board will revisit the question again next year, Ewing says. “But it will still have to meet the test,” Piersdorff warns.

As for last year’s street fair loss, the VPS worked out a deal with its co-sponsor, the PumpJack Pub, to ease some of the fair’s deficit from its books. (Last year’s financial statement shows the VPS lost $18,000 on the fair. This year’s statement shows the total loss was actually $24,794. But at the end of the day, the PumpJack agreed to absorb a greater share of that loss, and left the VPS with just $9,333 on its own books.)

Having a smoke outside Gordon Neighbourhood House after the meeting, Ewing reflects on how far the VPS has come financially. Last year, she says, she got a call from the city looking for its money (the VPS still owed almost $7,000 at the time). This year, Ewing says she called city hall looking for its last $985 grant installment (which it has since paid).

Things have changed, Ewing smiles. “It’s a good place to be.”

In fact, the VPS is in such good shape this year, it decided to give something back: $6,000 in donations to the Dr Peter Centre, the BC Persons with AIDS Society, AIDS Vancouver and A Loving Spoonful.

The Society is also growing in other ways. The reality is, the Pride Parade is getting so big that it may have outgrown its route, Ewing says, noting that the VPS has already begun talks with the city to explore other options.

Change can be hard, Ewing acknowledges, especially since “for lots of people, there’s a huge amount of history and heritage.” But it may be necessary.

The VPS is planning to hold a special meeting Nov 20 to consult the community about the parade route. “We need input,” Ewing says.

She’s also looking for input on the VPS’ decision to strike out in yet another new direction: the Santa Claus Parade. The Society has already paid for its spot in the upcoming parade. When asked if the VPS might be straying from its original mandate, Ewing says it’s important to reach out to the larger community. And a recent phone call from the Santa organizers reinforcing adherence to their family-oriented rules and regulations won’t dissuade her.

If anything, she says, the call simply reinforces her commitment to educate the straight community.


Special consultation.

Nov 20.

Specifics TBA.