2 min

Pride breakthrough!

Festivities offer first-ever street fair, late night bars

Credit: Robin Perelle

Shawn Ewing says she can practically feel the rumble in the air. The excitement is building, says the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) president. “People are looking at the posters and saying, ‘wow, it’s happening.'”

And happening it is. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this year’s Pride festivities, starting with the new, post-parade Davie Village street fair.

This year marks the VPS’ first-ever foray into closing down part of Davie St and filling it with three beer gardens, art exhibits, community archives, information booths and a live performance stage. Davie St will be completely closed to traffic Aug 3, between Jervis and Thurlow, from 4-8 pm.

“I’m excited,” says VPS vice-president Randy Atkinson. “This is something Vancouver has needed for a long time.” Other major Pride festivals have had street fairs for years, he adds.

Of course, Vancouver has had its Sunset Beach festival for years, too, he continues, but it’s not the same. The new street fair will run “right along the street that we call home.”

And that’s empowering, he says. “We’re coming together in a place that’s identified as ours.”

Brian Young agrees. Young, who manages and co-owns PumpJack Pub, has been working overtime the last few weeks to organize the Davie street fair. He gets goosebumps just talking about it.

“This is what we call home,” he says, echoing Atkinson. It’s about time the gay community got the chance to close down its street for a Pride party.

“Where we go from here is limitless,” he grins, noting that he has already begun planning next year’s street party.

“There’s no reason why [the street fair] shouldn’t become an integral part of Pride as we see it,” Atkinson agrees.

This year also marks the first time Vancouver’s gay bars and clubs-inside and outside the Village-will be able to stay open late for Pride.

Last year, city licensing officials refused to let most gay establishments extend their hours for Pride-resulting in more than a few disgruntled party goers who had to stop dancing at midnight on the biggest gay holiday of the year.

This year, Vancouver’s gay bars and clubs will be able to stay open late every night of Pride weekend. That’s because they’re participating in this summer’s late-night experiment, extending their usual 2 am closing time to 4 am on Fridays and Saturdays. It also means they can close late on nights preceding statutory holidays-a boon for Pride Sunday since it precedes the Aug 4 BC civic holiday.

And that’s not all. City licensing officials also drew up a short list of pre-approved festivals and invited the 4 am trial participants to apply for a few extra late-night closings in conjunction with those festivals. Pride week made the short list of festivals.

The result: many gay bars and pubs will not only stay open late throughout Pride weekend, but in the week leading up to it, as well.

What a difference a year-and a city election-can make, says Atkinson. “It’s like night and day. It’s really a testament to getting a council who understands the importance of this festival to our community.”

City officials have been very supportive too, he adds. “I’ve seen only goodwill on their part.”

As for the Pride Parade and the regular post-parade festival at Sunset Beach, Ewing says they’re in the final planning stages now, and they’re looking good. “It’s dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s at this point,” she says. “I’m very excited.”