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Pride 2010 pushed one week later

Festival shifts dates for G8 Summit

With Toronto Pride 2009 over and done with, Pride Toronto has already begun planning next year’s festival, starting off with one significant change — moving it one week later.

Pride Week 2010 will run Fri, Jun 25 to Sun, Jul 4, as opposed to the last week of June, as it has been scheduled in previous years.

Tracey Sandilands, executive director of Pride Toronto, says the decision to move the festival was made to accommodate the G8 Summit taking place next year in the town of Huntsville, three hours north of Toronto.

The G8 Summit is an annual forum for government leaders from eight wealthy countries — France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada — and often attracts large-scale protests.

The idea to move Toronto Pride was recommended by Toronto city officials and Toronto Police Services, who warned that hosting Toronto Pride and the G8 Summit at the same time would strain Toronto’s resources like police services and hotel rooms, says Sandilands.

“The police will be busy taking care of the dignitaries,” says Sandilands.

The city did not, however, force Pride to change its dates, says Sandilands. “[Pride Toronto] raised the discussion,” she says. “Nobody bullied us into it.”

The federal government, which awarded $400,000 in funding to Pride Toronto in June, had no input or influence on the rescheduling either, says Sandilands.

From a tourism standpoint, moving the festival has advantages. For one, Canada Day will fall in the middle of Pride Week. Rainbow fireworks, anyone? And Toronto Pride may also attract more visitors from the US. Under the new festival schedule the 2010 Pride Parade will fall on Jul 4, Independence Day in the US. The following Monday, Jul 5, is also a US public holiday because Independence Day falls on a Sunday next year.

“[Americans] coming up will have a day to travel back,” says Sandilands.

The move will also allow tourists the opportunity to check out New York City Pride, which routinely falls on the same weekend as Toronto Pride each year.

“It’s perfect,”‘ says Frank DJ, a Pride reveller from Montreal. “I can go to New York City Pride, then Toronto’s the following week, just like that.”

Party promoter and Xtra columnist Matt Sims says hosting Toronto Pride on a different day from Pride in NYC is smart. He thinks it will help boost the star factor at some of next year’s Toronto Pride parties.

“Promoters in Toronto will be able to book more talent from New York,” he says.

Writer and activist David Ivey says he opposes the idea of moving Pride but is taking the move in stride. For Ivey it’s about practicality.

“Hosting both events would be a complete drain on the city’s resources,” he says. “And asking world leaders to reschedule the G8 so us queers can enjoy our festival is kind of unrealistic.”

If summit protesters invade Toronto gay people should join in, says Ivey.

“I’m sure there will be a leader or three who doesn’t like fags,” he says.

But moving Pride Week doesn’t sit well with everyone.

Artist and DJ Shane MacKinnon thinks it’s “‘weird” for Pride to shift dates to accommodate the G8, especially in “‘a big city like Toronto.” It may, he suggests, impact the themes of some monthly events, like his own Foxhole party, that take place in the closing days of Pride Week.

Then again, it’s the spirit of Pride that counts, right? Gay activist Tim McCaskell, who has attended Pride since 1974, back when it was a political march of approximately 50 people from Allan Gardens to Queen’s Park, says he isn’t “getting his knickers in a knot” over the date change. “It’s not like the birthday of baby Jesus,” he says.

McCaskell says he doesn’t sense a lot of nostalgia around Stonewall’s exact date — Jun 28, 1969.

“I won’t be an old bitter queen that stands by tradition,” he jokes.

If anything, rescheduling Pride saves the Stonewall tradition. If the 2010 festival had kept its original dates, it would have started on Jun 18 and ended on Jun 27, missing Stonewall’s anniversary altogether by one day.

Historian, author and longtime volunteer of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives Don McLeod notes that Toronto’s Pride festival wasn’t always a June Festival. In the early ’80s, for instance, it was a picnic celebration in August on the Toronto Islands.

The last time Toronto Pride was rescheduled was in 1994 to accommodate Stonewall’s 25th anniversary, the 1994 Gay Games and the march on the UN in New York City.

Sandilands says it’s too soon to paint an accurate picture of what Pride Week 2010 will look like. The Pride executive says those details will become clearer this fall at Pride Toronto’s AGM on Thu, Sep 17 at a venue to be announced.