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7 min

Prides to watch out for

Southern Ontario starts celebrating

NIAGARA PRIDE. OutNiagara's Melissa Gray poses with St Catharine's mayor Brian McMullen at the 2008 Pride flag raising.

With June just around the corner excitement is starting to build for Toronto’s 2009 Pride celebrations. But while Hogtown’s party may be the biggest in the country there are plenty of other fantastic festivals taking place throughout the province this the summer. Although smaller in size these celebrations are big in spirit, providing a focus for local queers to come together and increasing public awareness in their communities.

Here’s a look at some of the Pride events happening around Ontario in the early part of this summer.

Jump to a Pride event:
Guelph | Cambridge, Kitchener/Waterloo | Niagara
York Region | Durham | Hamilton | West Toronto
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Guelph

Guelph Pride is the earliest out of the gate — festivities started on May 25. However there’s still time to catch events happening this weekend.

On Sat, May 30 the Rainbow Chorus will perform music from the 1960s at 8pm at Harcourt United Church (87 Dean Ave). Advance tickets are available online at Rainbowchorus.ca or at the door, with discounts for seniors, students and children.

Guelph’s Pride weekend party will take place inside the Oakwood Ballroom at the Holiday Inn (601 Scottsdale Dr) with food, local art, an event photographer, DJ Tami and special guest Carla Donnell from radio station Magic 106.1 FM. Tickets are $10 at the door.

On May 31 a Unitarian church service titled Human Like Me — on the challenges and joys of being genderqueer — will take place on May 31, followed by brunch. The service takes place at 10:30am at the Unitarian Congregation of Guelph (122 Harris St).

For more information and links go to Guelphpride.outontheshelf.ca.

Cambridge, Kitchener/Waterloo

The cities of Cambridge and Kitchener/Waterloo also start their festival early with their Tri-Pride Week beginning on Sun, May 31 and going until Jun 6.

This year all three cities are taking part in hosting activities, many of them free to the public. Among the events is a screening of the documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk on May 31 at the Princess Twin Cinema (46 King St N) in Waterloo, the Miss Tri-Pride 2009 Pageant on Jun 24 at Club Renaissance (24 Charles St W) in Kitchener and a singing workshop with performer — and Toronto Pride 2009 honoured dyke — Faith Nolan at the Rum Runners Pub (1 King St W, in Kitchener on Jun 5.

Jun 6 is the main event with the Tri-Pride Outdoor Festival at Roos Island, Victoria Park in Kitchener. From noon to 7pm, 4,000 people are expected to watch performers like US pop musician Levi Kreis plus local talents as well as enjoy a barbeque, vendor market, silent auction and a Kids’ Zone.

There are two afterparties — one at Kitchener’s Club Renaissance (24 Charles St W) at 7pm and another at Robin’s Nest in Cambridge (1260 Bishop St N). Both clubs will waive their $3 cover until 10pm.

For more information go to Tri-pride.ca.

Niagara

Niagara’s Pride celebrations kick off Mon, Jun 1 with a flag-raising ceremony at St Catharines city hall. It’s the first of 11 events community organization OutNiagara has planned for the month throughout the region.

OutNiagara vice-chair Melissa Gray says the ceremony offers up an opportunity for greater visibility in the larger community and that speeches at the event will connect past efforts and ongoing struggles.

“We’re trying to incorporate how we’ve come a long way from things like the Stonewall Riots while also acknowledging things we still have to work on,” says Gray. “Like right now our trans members are very underserviced.”

A Pride in Niagara Dance will take place on Jun 5 at 8pm at the local Canadian Auto Workers Banquet Hall in St Catharines (124 Bunting Rd). Also planned are a Latin Fiesta, a bike ride and wine tour and a drag show.

Like many other small city Pride celebrations the fest culminates in the annual Pride Picnic on Jun 7 from noon to 4pm at Burgoyne Woods in St Catharines. Organized by Niagara Pride Support Services the family-friendly event features a barbeque and various children’s activities, as well as surprise celebrity guests at the dog show and silent auction.

For more information see OutNiagara.ca.

Halton

Halton Pride is celebrating its 10th year by expanding its annual picnic event — on Sat, Jun 6 at Centre Park Bandshell (2331 New St) in Burlington  — with five hours of live performances. Organized by the Halton Organization for Pride and Education (HOPE) — which serves the cities of Burlington, Oakville, Milton and the town of Halton Hills — expectations for the anniversary event are high.

“We’re expecting to at least double if not triple our attendance this year,” says HOPE’s executiv director Jacqui Fendley. Fendley says that last year’s event drew approximately 400 participants.

The family-friendly event will include performances such as headliner lesbian dance music diva Nancy Rancourt as well as a barbeque, booths by local community groups, an art show and kids’ activities like clown shows, bubble blowing and face painting.

A special feature of this year’s event is queer storytelling offered in partnership with Hamilton’s Bryan Prince Booksellers.

“We actually don’t have anywhere in all of Halton region queer bookshops nor do we have a gay bar or anything like that, so often we have to pull from outside to get these [resources],” says Fendley.

For more details check out Haltonpride.org.

York Region

Located just north of Toronto, York Region will mark its ninth-annual York Pride Fest from Sun, Jun 7 to 14.

York Region — which covers a number of cities and towns including Aurora, East Gwillembury, King, Georgina, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville — began its tradition of Pride celebrations with a small party at the Sharon Community Centre in 2001. This year the festival is offering eight different events spread over eight days and has partnered with 12 local public libraries for queer displays also to be set up across the region.

Among this year’s events are social nights in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, a daylong conference on Jun 10 for service providers on becoming more queer-friendly and a reading at the Milliken Mills Library (7600 Kennedy Rd) in Unionville with Fruit author Brian Francis on Jun 13 at 2pm.

The festival’s main event is the Pride picnic and barbeque at the Community Safety Village in the Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area near Stouffville on Jun 14. York Region chairman and CEO Bill Fisch, Richmond Hill mayor Dave Barrow and York Regional police chief Armand La Barge are expected to attend. Author Brian Francis is the picnic’s guest speaker and there will be live folk-pop and alternative music from Kim Brown, James Miller and Craig Riley.

For information go to Yorkpridefest.com.

Durham

East of Toronto, the region of Durham will be celebrating its sixth-annual Pride celebrations from Fri, Jun 12 to 14.

Encompassing seven large communities — Ajax, Brock, Clarington, Oshawa, Pickering, Uxbridge and Whitby — the focus of the area’s festival will be a picnic at Heydenshore Park and Pavilion (589 Water St) on Jun 13 at 11am in Whitby. Following that will be a Pride dance at Club 717 (717 Wilson Rd S) in Oshawa from 8pm to 1am.

For more details check out Pridedurham.com.

Hamilton

This year the Hammer’s 2009 Pride celebrations are set to be bigger than ever with 10 days of events, culminating in a three-day festival, from Sat, Jun 13 to 21. Among this year’s offerings are a screening of the Oscar-winning film Milk, a Hawaiian-themed kick-off party and a gay-themed art crawl.

With its 2009 theme of “Unity,” Hamilton Pride is hoping to avoid the controversy that dominated last year’s festival when the Canadian Forces were banned from participating as an organization.

“There might have been individuals who worked in the military that were maybe at the festival [last year] but they weren’t in uniform,” says festival treasurer Victor Marchand.

He says this year the ban was lifted as a result of last year’s public outcry and because the festival board decided it was being hypocritical of its mandate against discrimination.

“They’re people,” Marchand says. “If people don’t like the idea that the Canadian Forces are in Afghanistan or in Haiti, [don’t] take it out on the individual — that’s their job, it’s like a business.”

Marchand says the Canadian Forces will be back with a recruiting and information booth and have requested to march in the parade.

This year Marchand says Festival organizers are trying to widen the appeal of Hamilton Pride beyond Hamilton’s queer community. One example of this effort to include everyone is a new family-friendly carnival at the front of Bayfront Park on Jun 20 and 21.

But Marchand says that in true Pride tradition some of the festivities will be more risqué.

“People will have to realize if they come to the festival, you might see things you might not like,” says Marchand, adding that widening Pride’s appeal doesn’t suddenly eliminate some queers’ right to be topless or flamboyant. “We can’t take that day away.”

The main event takes place on Jun 20 with a rally at Hamilton city hall at 11am, followed by a parade to Bayfront Park, the site of the evening’s activities. Among the entertainment acts that night will be appearances by Ms Gay Pride 2007 Kienna Dior, DJ Scotty G, Ladies on the Edge and a headline performance by the Toronto-based Madonna tribute band Madgesty.

For more information go to Hamiltonpride.com.

West Toronto

Toronto’s west enders will start the Hogtown party with the Queer West Fest, running Mon, Jun 15 to 20. Among the combination of old favourites and new additions is the fifth-annual Pride Ride organized by the Gay West Bicycle Club and a pool tournament at Andy’s Poolhall (489 College St), both on Jun 14.

Queer West interim president Michael Paré says this year’s fest will feature more punk rock, goth and lesbian events thanks to new festival manager Forest Lightbody. Lightbody, the interim board secretary and longtime volunteer of the Inside Out film fest, will be DJing at least three official Queer West Fest events as DJ 4est.

Among the highlights planned is the Queer Women’s Songfest at Mitzi’s Sister on Jun 16 (1554 Queen St W). Paré says the program, which includes Anna Gutmanis, eMKeh, Dinah Thorpe and Shawnee Lynne Talbotis, one of the most appealing and hotly anticipated out of all the festival’s activities this year. He added, “A lot of older lesbians are coming in from Kingston, St Catharine’s, London, Ontario to see that.”

This year also sees the return of the Queer West Film Festival on Jun 20 at 8pm. A showcase of local and international digital short films, the second-annual pay-what-you-can event has now been moved indoors to the Fixt Point Theatre (1550 Queen St W).

For more details go to Queerwest.org.