A mob of sexual outlaws wearing leather and fetish gear marched through the Church St Village Fair on Aug 14 to ensure that the festival stays kinky.
“This is what Leather Pride looks like!” marchers shouted, while others clapped, cheered and pumped their fists in the air.
The group was making a statement against this year’s rebranding of the festival by the Church and Wellesley Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA), which seemed to want to sanitize the sex for a more “inclusive” focus.
But the leather community didn’t let that happen. At Zipperz, just before the march started at 3:30pm, the parking lot was packed and organizers pumped up the leather-clad crowd from the stage. “Thank you for showing your colours and thank you for being present. Let’s take this day back,” George Giaouris, owner of Northbound Leather, told the crowd.
The march moved up the street, then turned around at the Ferris wheel and headed back to Zipperz, where the Toronto Leather Pride fetish party continued in full swing.
“We just made history. I’m pretty sure that was the first Toronto Leather Pride parade ever,” organizer Victoria Windsor said excitedly. “And it was just us kinky folks saying, ‘Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! We’re here! We’re queer! We’re kinky! We’re not protesting. We’re smiling and waving. We just took the sexual blinders off a long time ago.’ We brought fetish back to the Village.”
Elsewhere on the street, there was no shortage of leather daddies and sexy people. The Ferris wheel went largely unused. Amongst the crowd the mood was upbeat and the people-watching was titillating. Many bars and restaurants extended their patios into the street, and the rain held off.
Still, CWVBIA manager David Wootton says, vendor numbers were down, and organizers may rethink the focus for next year, taking into account the feedback from the community.
“Everything is slow this year. As you can see there’s not as many people in the street, and that’s really how we know that it’s not as busy,” he says. There were 29 vendors. Of those, seven were local and 10 were not-for-profit, Wootton says.
The fair featured a climbing wall and various bouncy games, geared to adults. This reporter went head to head with Brandon Sawh, from the LGBT Youth Line, on a gladiator pole pillow fight.
The most popular activity with the crowds was likely the mechanical bull, which was, apparently, as difficult as it looked. The games cost the BIA $16,000, Wootton says.
Despite the low numbers and slumping vendor sales, Wootton says the community members who attended the festival made the event a success, and the message was clear. He adds that the BIA board now has some thinking to do. The festival could once again see changes.
“Next year we may take what we’ve learned this year and apply it to the new event,” he says. “I certainly will have my recommendations. I take a lot of responsibility for this event because I’ve done a lot of it myself for many years. There’s a way to do it right, and I know what works.”