Cornwall-area residents will not be celebrating Pride this September.
At an executive committee meeting held on April 2, the board of Pride/Fierté Cornwall cancelled the five-year-old festivities.
“It pretty much boiled down to a choice between doing something badly and not doing it at all,” says Paul Aubin, member-at-large of Pride/Fierté Cornwall. “The way that the cards are stacked right now, it looked like we were going to do it pretty badly.”
The press release listed the current economic situation, as well as the decrease in attendance and revenue at Cornwall’s Pride festival last year as factors.
“It was a case of basically the community [at large] not supporting us as wholehearted as they had in the past,” Aubin says. “A lot of people are staying in and not spending money. As well, we did lose money last year. Not a lot of money, but it was enough to make us stand up and take notice.”
Aubin also cites volunteer burnout for the postponement.
“We’ve all been doing this now for five years, and despite numerous calls for volunteers, nobody seems to be interested in coming forward,” Aubin says. “It’s almost as if they’re happy to have the thing, but they don’t really feel the need to contribute to it.”
Cornwall isn’t the only Pride that has been forced to scale back or make changes. In early March, it was announced that Calgary Pride would be moving from its usual June date to the Labour Day long weekend in September.
“Part of the reason we delayed Pride was because we don’t have the money,” says Pride Calgary president Sam Casselman. “We’re just finding it so hard to find sponsors this year — even as of now, we’re still scrambling to get money together and find sponsors and donations.”
“I think part of it is obviously the economy and people not wanting to give money this year,” Casselman adds. “It’s hard in Calgary — there’s not a lot of support for stuff like that.”
Pride Calgary is also in the midst of a reorganization, finally incorporating its organisation and dealing with a fiscal shortfall from last year, which further delayed their efforts.
Capital Pride in Ottawa, however, remains on track for their August festival.
“We’re definitely not cancelling ours,” says Alan Chaffe, chair of Capital Pride. “Sponsorship is up, actually, from last year, our attendance has been increasing over the past few years, and we’re projecting another increase this year. We definitely have no reason why we would end up postponing.”
Chaffe also says that while he can sympathize with Cornwall’s issue of volunteer burnout, his organization is currently holding its own.
“Three years ago, we definitely had more volunteers than we have now, but we’re just making greater use of our volunteers and we’re being more efficient with them,” Chaffe says. “We also have a larger board than we used to. I think as a community organization, especially as you expand and grow, you run that risk of burning out your volunteers and your board members, and I think that’s possibly what they’re seeing.”
While they won’t be holding a festival this year, Cornwall still plans to hold fundraisers throughout the year in the hopes that next year the festival will return.
“We’re putting the whole thing on ice,” Aubin says. “We’ll regroup probably sometime in the New Year to figure out what we’re going to do with the money that we’ve raised — assuming that we turn a profit at these things. We may decide to have a different kind of event; we may decide to change the date.”
“It basically comes down to what the community wants. We’re just going to look at new avenues of staging it. If the community wants a Pride, we’ll do it. If the community doesn’t, we won’t. It’s up to the people that we’re serving.”