The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) released more plans for this year’s Pride Celebration at its media launch at Characters Taverna in the Davie Village, Feb 16.
Pride & Joy, the theme for this year’s celebration, was the brainchild of VPS vice-president Aviva Lazar’s 16-year-old daughter Lea. “I remember my mom once called me her pride and joy and it just came to me: Vancouver’s Pride & Joy! All grown up!” she says in a quote on the new VPS website.
The theme “has a couple of different things it’s focusing on,” VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West at the launch. “First off, everyone should just get out there and really enjoy Pride. It’s been very serious this last couple of years. Secondly, the 120-year history of the City of Vancouver, and how we’ve been able to work together and become very cohesive and create something that we do have great pride in.”
Boychuk says there won’t be any huge changes to the celebration this year. In fact, most of the changes will happen behind the scenes on parade day, with increased space for the float staging and tear-down areas.
Among the slight event changes from last year, the VPS plans to re-brand Stonewall as East Side Pride, and to resurrect Gay Day at Playland. There was a plan for an event called A Taste of Pride, but Boychuk says it won’t come to fruition in 2006.
“Our main goal for this year is to create some good, solid, strong events that can show three years of being financially stable so we can give back to the community and so we can go to the city and say we have ourselves together. We want to be considered as part of the 2006-2007 [city] budget as a civic event. That’s what we really want to go for.”
Boychuk says the greatest advantage to being declared a civic event is that the city will take greater financial responsibility for things like security, barricades and clean-up. He also says it will put the VPS in a better position to negotiate timing conflicts, particularly with the Symphony of Fire fireworks event that takes place the day before the parade.
“We’ve been around twice as long as they have,” he says, “but they still get first dibs. They’re recognized as a civic event. The challenge comes from working with them and working with the city to be able to bring more people and more money to the downtown area.”
Boychuk says there’s no risk of the VPS losing creative control of Pride if the city declares it a civic event. It’s all about getting more flexibility in timing and financial help for the event, which last year brought an estimated $30-million into the city’s economy.
“The city’s saying ‘we don’t know enough about Vancouver’s Pride Society. We don’t know enough about the money it brings in. We want to be educated,'” he says. “That’s one of the challenges that have been put to us from the civic election.”
Boychuk says working with the city has been a positive experience.
“We’ve had good communication so far with parks and festivals and other departments out there who are giving us great advice and helping us along,” he says.
In spite of overwhelming demand from the community, the VPS won’t be adding beer gardens at the Sunset Beach festival site or in the Davie Village this year.
Boychuk says it’s just too much of a financial risk. “We’ve chosen not to take that on just yet because it does require a large workforce and a lot more security,” he says. “We’re still a pretty good family venue and we’re not quite prepared to take on that kind of beer garden just yet. A street party, for example, would cost in excess of $100,000. When you consider that it’s a free-flow venue [no charge for admission], we may have a hard time raising that kind of money.”
But, he says, the VPS is working to ensure there will be a beer garden at the Plaza of Nations for its Queer-coustic event, Jul 30. And, Boychuk points out, the Pride Festival at Sunset Beach shuts down at 6 pm on Pride Day, so those who want to can visit any of the city’s bars and clubs.
Last year, in the wake of a controversial VPS plan to hold the Festival at the Plaza of Nations, the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) announced plans to hold a street festival on Pride Day. At the time, the city rejected the idea because it would put too much strain on city resources, disrupt traffic flow in downtown Vancouver, and because there was not enough time to review the BIA’s last-minute application.
Also, the VPS expressed concern that by announcing a competing event, potential sponsors for Pride were confused about which event to sponsor which made the whole queer community look divided and disorganised.
Boychuk says the VPS recently had a very constructive meeting with the BIA and that there are no plans for a BIA festival during Pride Week. He thinks it’s important that everyone work together and says the VPS’s three-year plan to the city will be shared with the BIA ahead of time. He says every effort will be made to address the BIA’s needs during Pride.
Xtra West contacted BIA executive director, Lyn Hellyar, Feb 17, who confirmed the BIA has no plans for a street festival during Pride this year.
Caryl Dolinko has worked with the VPS over the last two years to build a solid sponsorship base. She says her work is beginning to pay off.
“It’s nice that there’s consistency on the VPS board so there’s a consistent person to talk to,” she says. “I contacted all of last year’s sponsors by December. So many people want to get involved with Pride. It’s unbelievable. People are finally recognizing that Pride is a huge event in the city.”
Dolinko acknowledges it’s a tough balancing act to raise enough money, ensure the event has something for everyone, and that it doesn’t become so commercialized it puts off parade participants and spectators. She says the VPS doesn’t want just any old sponsor.
“The idea with corporate sponsorship is to make sure these are companies that actually work with the gay community and support gay rights throughout the year, rather than having a big corporate sponsor just come in to be a part of it to shine their glory,” she says. On the other hand, “we could call any porn group and any lube and sex store and they would jump on as a sponsor. It’s who do you want? IKEA has already agreed that they’re going to do the Kid’s Zone again.”
The VPS will be hosting a community launch for anyone who would like to know more about Pride at Sugar Daddy’s on Davie St, Mar 4 starting at 3:30 pm. They’ll be accepting volunteers at that event.
There will also be a special general meeting of the VPS membership to accept last year’s audited financial statements and to officially elect some new board members on Mar 25 at 1 pm at St John’s United Church in the West End.