3 min

Pride Parade route may change

January public meeting will consider final options

Credit: Robin Perelle

Pride 2005 could see a new route in place for the Pride Parade, the celebration’s main attraction, participants at a community meeting heard Nov 20.

Shawn Ewing, president of the Vancouver Pride Society, told the 22 participants in a brainstorming session that changes to the parade route and festivals could come on the heels of a second public meeting to be held in January.

Parade attendance has outgrown the current route, Ewing earlier said. “It’s getting to the point where we can’t safely accommodate the numbers of people showing up,” particularly along Denman St and at the Denman/Davie bottleneck, where organizers had to cope with people lined 10 deep and jostling over their viewing spots.

Initial suggestions for a new route included a couple that would have moved it out of the West End. But a consensus gradually emerged among participants that the best options would likely incorporate at least some of the existing route and culminate in one of several West End locations.

“You have to come back and end up in the West End,” said Vince Marino, co-owner of the PumpJack Pub and former VPS board member. The gay community, he noted, has two major centres in the city-the West End and Commercial Drive. The parade route needs to recognize that. “The gay community is everywhere, but you can’t put [the parade] everywhere.”

Others added that the community has been demanding that city hall recognize Davie Village and the West End as the centre of Vancouver’s gay community. The VPS should send a message consistent with that.

Nobody spoke up when Ewing asked if anyone wanted to keep the current route, which has been in place, with modifications, for more than two decades.

The parade requires at least 10 blocks of space to assemble floats and other entries, Ewing noted. As the event grows, that requirement will also grow.

Fairs and festivals were the second major issue of the day. Should the VPS keep the festival at Sunset Beach after the parade, or should it refocus on a street fair on Davie St? asked Ewing. Clearly, she said, there’s not sufficient money or volunteer resources to do both.

Vendors at the Second Beach festival complain that their booths are crammed tightly together, making it difficult to get the exposure necessary to make sales, said Ewing. The celebration is outgrowing the Second Beach site, she added. “Is it better to have a street fair instead?”

Muayed Istifo, a member of the Gay and Lesbian Business Association (GLBA) replied, “I like the street fair. Two years ago was the best Pride. I think we should refocus on the street fair.”

The 2003 Pride festivities included a street fair on Davie St that attracted throngs of revellers. It suffered from significant growing pains that first year and lost money. For 2004, a cash-strapped VPS cancelled the street fair but promised the gay community it would consider returning it for 2005.

VPS treasurer Barry Piersdorff says he’s calculated the street fair would have to serve beer for at least 13 hours to break even financially.

Steven RodRozen, a board member of the GLBA, said the 2003 street festival was “an explosion of fun. Let’s develop this because it could be a bigger and better thing. Bring [Pride] into the street and develop the village that is the centre of our community.”

Some suggested that street festival could occupy several blocks of Davie and spread laterally to include Bute and Nelson Park. Revellers should be allowed to walk around with their alcohol, as was done at this summer’s annual Festival d’été francophone de Vancouver.

City councillor Tim Stevenson encouraged the VPS to host both the Sunset Beach festival and the Davie St festival. If a choice has to be made, he said, “I’d go with the street festival.” The COPE-dominated city council is open to a larger street party with relaxed alcohol regulations, he said. And the gay community should make this a tradition before the next civic election in the autumn of 2005.