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Pride kicks off in Ottawa

Organizers say this year’s celebration is bigger than ever

Participants in the Ottawa Pride parade 2013. Credit: Ben Welland/Xtra

Capital Pride promises to be bigger and better than ever this year.

With an expanding street fair shutting down several blocks, a two-day music festival featuring local artists and headliners, and drag shows featuring The Vixen from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ottawa’s Pride celebrations are only growing.

“Going into our festival, we set our sights on the Capital’s largest Pride celebrations ever — and so far, we are on track,” says Capital Pride’s chairperson Toby Whitfield. “The response by the community has been amazing — the flag raising had a record turnout, last night’s pageant sold out and had nearly three times as many attendees as last year’s, and we have over 150 groups in this year’s parade.”

Pride kicked off last Sunday with events running all week, but this coming weekend promises many free events and concerts for the community to attend.

Speaking of community, the theme of this year’s Pride is just that. The aim, according to a press release from Capital Pride, is to celebrate local activists and organizations while also showing support for the international community, especially with activists in countries such as Russia and Uganda where laws are still discriminatory against the queer community.

“It seems appropriate that in the year we celebrate the power of community as our theme, the community is showing up in record numbers,” Whitfield says.

This weekend’s events include a street fair, with more than 50 LGBT groups and allies participating, closing several blocks of main routes in the downtown area. A youth showcase and local DJs will be performing at the Bank Street stage followed by headliner Kimberly Sunstrum. The main stage at the corner of Bank and Somerset Streets will host a Drag Show Extravaganza with local drag queens and a finale performance by The Vixen, as well as musical performances by Denique, Brooke Candy and Bif Naked, to name a few.

The annual Pride parade takes place on Sunday at 1:30 pm on Kent Street and includes an accessible viewing location. Many of this year’s Pride events are free and have American Sign Language interpretation available upon request.

Also being held this weekend is the 14th annual Dyke March Ottawa. In previous iterations hundreds of dykes, lesbians, two-spirit and queer women have taken to the streets to protest and denounce the continued discrimination and ignorance the community faces. This year’s theme for the march is “Dykes Shaping the Arts” to honour the contributions the community has made to the Ottawa arts scene and to recognize the use of art as political protest. The march will be followed by a picnic in Minto Park with live art, music and vendors.

The Dyke March, according to a press release from organizers, wants to distinguish itself from the Capital Pride events taking place this weekend to protest the growing commercialization of Pride events. The branding of Pride has become a topic of contention in the queer community, with some arguing that sponsorship undermines the political activist roots of Pride. Organizers for the Dyke March did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.