3 min

Rising from the ashes

Plans come together for Ottawa's Pride festival

Credit: Shawn Scallen

The Pride Committee is just weeks away from unleashing Ottawa’s Pride Festival 2003, and once again it’s calling upon all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender beauties to gather, embrace each other and march with pride on Sun, Jul 13.

Sponsorship revenue has reached roughly $38,000 (last year’s was $22,000), security concerns have been met, concert events and boat cruises have been organized, and permits for street closures and parade routes are en route. The festivities will culminate at the end of the parade route at Bank and James St on Sun, Jul 13, where revellers will be asked to make a donation at the gate and help Pride rise from last year’s deficit.

“Donations are our primary focus this year,” says Pride Committee chair Robin Duetta. “Many people are going to donate five dollars or 10 dollars. We should raise a substantial amount of money with that endeavour.”

People will be greeted by a plethora of stages hosted by Wilde’s, The Lookout, Cruiseline and AWOL. Sand will be brought in for the beach party at the Bank and James St intersection, Carole Pope headlines at the Community Stage at Somerset and Bank and the Cruiseline Community Stage at James and Bank is hosting a fundraiser for Bruce House. And, of course, Ottawa’s splendid drag queens will be roaming about everywhere.

The Duke of Somerset, The Lookout and Centretown Pub are all running Labatt-sponsored beer gardens, and the Pride Town Square is going to be in the parking garage across from the Duke of Somerset.

“We’re expecting at least the same amount of people as last year, but the way things are looking as well, a lot of people are looking at Ottawa as a solution,” says Pride chair Robin Duetta. “Toronto is concerned that SARS is going to have a large impact on their festival attendance.”

The newly designed Pride website ( is receiving hundreds of hits per day from curious Pride Festival followers, but many are from Americans who are considering Ottawa’s festival as an alternative to Toronto.

“It’s unfortunate,” says Duetta. “I’m encouraging people to go to Toronto. It’s one of the largest festivals in North America, and the largest in Canada. It needs our support, but at the same time I think that we can expect a significant amount of people coming here because we’re not in that area.”

Aside from concerns about SARS, Duetta nearly stutters with more news on events and the expectations he has for Ottawa’s 2003 Pride Festival.

“Everybody’s on board, and it’s going to be a wonderful, excellent week,” he says triumphantly. “The street party will be larger than last year; we’ve managed the expenses of this festival very well, and we’ve reduced our budget considerably while still providing high-end entertainment. Our entertainment budget is one quarter of what it was last year, but there are many more bands participating. They’re coming to play for Pride, not to make money. It’s a much more eclectic group of people.”

A record-breaking onslaught of festival-goers also has the potential to be very profitable for the gay business community located between Somerset and Gladstone.

Gerry LePage, the executive director of Bank Street Promenade, helped officially designate the area three years ago. Now one of his goals is to see that the gay business community raises its profile to the ranks of other North American cities.

LePage believes there is a direct economic boost to having gay businesses fill the area between Somerset and Gladstone. When businesses cluster, he reasons, they can share the full benefit of gay consumers being able to shop in one place. A successful Pride could boost the area’s profile even further.

Lepage has also lent his analytical prowess to the Pride committee.

“I think the Gay Pride committee, given the problems they’ve had financially, is one of the most diligent group of individuals to make this event happen. I think they can be proud to stand among the ranks of the Montreal and Toronto festivals that are much older and much more entrenched in awareness. I think a great job has been done with respect to taking that quantum leap two years ago and building on the momentum to keep it going.”