When the organizers for Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP) announced they were cancelling this year’s festival, two Saint John nightclub employees decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We didn’t want to see the momentum die,” says Troy Morehouse, assistant manager at Element Dance Bar.
Along with the help of Michelle Petite (aka DJ Double Dee), Morehouse says they are planning a week of events and activities so the city’s queer community doesn’t have to wait until 2010 to celebrate Pride.
He understands there were numerous reasons to postpone PCRP, which has taken place every August since 2003, but, he says, the absence of the festival provides an opportunity to help it evolve. The current PCRP committee has offered its advice and blessings to Morehouse and Petite.
“We’re didn’t want to appear like we were rescuing Pride… or rubbing this in their face,” he says, adding Saint John Pride 2009 — running from Aug 9 to 16 — will probably attract a different crowd than usual, which will help PCRP continue to evolve when it returns next summer.
Both Morehouse and PCRP committee member Mack MacKenzie acknowledge there has been a “rift” over the years between the younger bar-crowd and the more conservative members of the queer community.
During an interview, in early July, MacKenzie said he has heard criticism in the past about the Pride celebration being “elitist” — not targeting youth or being financially accessible to everyone.
The people behind PCRP chose to plan more cultural and educational events, Morehouse says, foregoing the glitz and glamour of big city parties.
“Their view was more to please or appease the non-LGBT community,” he says. “It kinda lost sight of the LGBT people. The event should be for them.”
Even though Element Dance Bar is hosting many of the events, it is merely a sponsor of the 2009 Pride Festival. Morehouse sees this as reflecting “the roots” of Pride, referencing the Stonewall Bar and the riots 40 years ago.
The bar’s management has organized annual events separate of PCRP for years, so taking the reins of a city-wide Pride festival is just an extension of that, he says. Many of the planned events were already in place.
There was no intention to do a parade, he says, until (co-organizer) Petite declared there would be, to a packed dance floor.
“Michelle, while she was DJ-ing, picked up a microphone and told everyone we were doing a parade. So, we said, we announced it, now we’ve gotta do it.”
The goal, he says, is for the Saturday afternoon spectacle to be more vibrant and lively, “less funeral march-like.” As of last week, he says, there were 15-20 confirmed groups and floats.
He is also taking into consideration the late-night parties that weekend, scheduling the parade for 3pm — rather than noon, as in previous years — in hopes of attracting more participants.
Some traditions, however, are carrying over from Port City Rainbow Pride.
The week’s festivities will commence with a Sunday morning church service and the Monday afternoon flag-raising ceremony, with Saint John Mayor Ivan Court doing the honours.
The Saint John Theatre Company will, for the third year in a row, host Out on the Edge — a queer-theatre performance that rounds out their two-week Theatre on the Edge festival.
Sun, Aug 9. Ecumenical church service, 10:30am at Queen Square United Church, 212 Wentworth St.
Mon, Aug 10. Pride flag raising ceremony, 10:30am at City Hall, King St.
Wed, Aug 12. Out on the Edge: Saint John Theatre Company presents Diane Flacks’ one-woman show, Bear With Me. 9pm – 11pm at Saint John Theatre Company, 112 Princess St (runs thru Fri, Aug 14).
Thu, Aug 13. Beach Party Battle of the DJs. 10pm – 2am at Element Dance Bar, 112 Prince William St.
Sat, Aug 15. Pride Parade, 3pm – 4pm commencing at Kings Square. Post-Parade BBQ, 4pm – 6pm at Pugsly Park, Water St at the foot of Princess St.
Sun, Aug 16. Drag Show, 8pm – midnight at Element Dance Bar.
For further details and event schedules Elementdancebar.ca/events.html