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Pride Season: Keep it coming

Local festivals continue all summer long

Revellers at this year’s Pride Toronto could be forgiven for thinking that Pride season ends on Sun, Jun 24. But for many across the province, it has only just begun. In the Pride season spirit of inclusive celebration, here is a sampling of some of the events set to take place later this summer across the province.

Pride London, Jul 19 to 29

Twenty-five years ago a group of friends decided to hold a Pride dance in the building housing the now-defunct Homophile Association Of London, Ontario (HALO). Today Pride London is a 10-day festival encompassing an art show, film festival, literary night, fashion show and parade.

The theme this year is Don’t Hide Your Pride — and hiding will be hard to do with so many events going on throughout the week and a half. Headliners include electronic violinist and former Toronto busker Dr Draw, rockers Kelly And The Kellygirls and internationally acclaimed tribute show Abbamania.

But Pride in London wasn’t always such a big party. In 1995 then-mayor Dianne Haskett and local city council refused to issue a Pride proclamation. Richard Hudler, then HALO’s president, filed an official complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Two years later the commission ruled that Haskett and the city illegally discriminated against HALO. Both Haskett and the city were each fined $5,000.

Things have certainly changed since then, according to Pride London Festival prez Eugene R Dustin. “Because the community has banded together and shown… we have artistic, musical and literary talents to share and that we are just ordinary people living ordinary lives,” writes Dustin in an open letter, “acceptance within the City Of London has immensely increased.”

For more go to Pridelondon.ca.

Windsor Pride, Jul 23 to 29

Pride organizers in Windsor are putting their emphasis squarely on the issue of same-sex marriage rights. It may seem an odd choice, seeing as Canada has had equal marriage since 2005, but one that makes more sense considering that the US metropolis of Detroit is right across the Ambassador Bridge.

Windsor Pride, which has been around since 1992, is celebrating the second anniversary of the passage of Bill C-38, the legislation that made same-sex marriage legal across Canada. Windsor Pride, in partnership with Korda Artistic Productions, is giving away a wedding package worth more than $1,000 to a same-sex couple willing to be married publicly during Pride. Windsor Pride is also cosponsoring the gay-themed play The Best Man at the University Of Windsor’s Essex Hall Theatre.

Additionally, this year’s events include an art show, bowling night and a night of entertainment in partnership with the Windsor International Film Festival at the Downtown Armouries. Windsor Pride climaxes with a parade and two days of entertainment.

The theme this year is Front And Centre, and Windsor Pride is doing just that by moving celebrations, which last year attracted around 5,000, to the highly visible Riverfront Plaza.

“Moving to the riverfront is even more important for a community like ours,” says festival chair Jason Patterson. “For us it means increased public awareness, increased visibility and increased acceptance. It means we are front and centre.”

For more go to Windsorpride.com.

Maynooth Pride, Aug 5

Maynooth, population 200, may just be the smallest place in Ontario, if not the entire country, to play host to a Pride celebration.

Of course, it helps that Wildewood Guest House — owned and operated by couple Joey Shulman and Barry Siegrist — is just 10 kilometres away from the centre of town. Shulman and Siegrist offer up their 10 acres for a parade and potluck, with performances by local musicians. About 80 people take part every year, with about 30 of them spending the night in tents.

Traditionally, Pride in Maynooth is a mix of straight locals and queer tourists, most of whom are from big cities and looking for something different.

“Be warned, however,” cautions Shulman. “This isn’t for people who worry about switching outfits 12 times a day. This is not about buff bodies and it’s certainly not brought to you by major corporate sponsors. This is about bonding and enjoying being under the night sky.”

Shulman, 56, is a former Xtra columnist. He remembers taking part in early gay marches in Toronto back in the 1960s “when it wasn’t a party, it was activism. It was about building community. And that’s what we are doing here in Maynooth, building community.”

For more go to Wildewood.net.

Pride/Fierté Cornwall, Sep 1 & 2

In a small city like Cornwall it’s still difficult to be openly gay, says Lori Taylor, president and chair of Pride/Fierté Cornwall. In fact, when organizers announced the first Pride/Fierté Cornwall three years ago, even members of the local queer community didn’t know what to make of it.

“There was a sense that it was still shameful to be out in town,” says Taylor, “but since then, there’s been a shift and people are coming out for Pride.”

Pride is now a two-day affair in Cornwall. Sat, Sep 1, will see a festival in Lamoureaux Park, headlined by qeer rock legend Carole Pope (“That’s a really big deal for us,” says Taylor) and a gala fundraising dance the following day. Taylor is expecting more than 1,000 participants this year, up from 200 the first time out.

Taylor also expects the same small group of protesters to show up — a handful of detractors who come to the park armed with signs and placards. But mostly, Taylor says, they are ignored. “Last year, we realized that we don’t even notice the protesters anymore. Overall, the community has been so supportive, that it’s not even worth wasting our breath on the protesters.”

For more go to Pridecornwall.com.

Halton Pride, Sep 8

Considering how close it is to Toronto, it may come as a surprise that Halton Pride has been the target of antigay phone calls and e-mail campaigns since the event was launched in 2000. Halton Region Police have even had to step in and investigate on numerous occasions.

“There is always a small vocal minority that will spend countless hours contacting our sponsors, local media and event location staff to try and discredit the event,” says Marcus Logan, executive director of the Halton Organization For Pride And Education (HOPE), which oversees Halton Pride. Combating this antigay bias is one of the reasons it’s so important for Halton Region to have its own celebration, says Logan.

In addition to the celebration on Sat, Sep 8, HOPE is working to have Pride Day officially proclaimed in the region’s municipal-ities and trying to convince the various city halls to fly the rainbow flag for the occasion. Logan says there is still resistance from towns including Halton Hills, which has cited its no-flag flying policy, yet flies flags for other organizations. Logan says a group of gay residents of Halton Hills are preparing a human rights complaint in response to the double standard.

For more go to Haltonpride.org.