4 min

Spectators icy to Mayencourt

Pride bounces back from the edge

BEST EVER: The crowds were as big as ever, the parade was fabulous, the parties flourished, and the popularity of the Davie St Fair far exceeded expectations. It was another one for the history books as the Vancouver queer community showed it wants to party and celebrate sexuality in every way possible. Credit: David Ellingsen

It was the parade in which straight Liberal MP Hedy Fry finally decided to be a drag queen, not just hang around with them.

It was also the parade in which a gay provincial politician, Liberal Lorne Mayencourt, got a frosty, at times hostile, response from a gay crowd.

Most of all, it was the parade in which the community voted-with its cash and physical presence-for 4 am bar closings, blocking off Davie St, having a street fair with a beer garden and sound stage, and just having a party, generally.

And what a party weekend it was.

The Aug 3 parade drew up to 150,000 participants and observers, about the same as recent years. And it attracted 134 entries (down from last year’s 147 because of a reduced number of corporate floats), including a record number of full-fledged floats-35.

Most politicians marching in the parade were warmly applauded by the spectators. Fry sported a headdress that would make most drag queens salivate-and drew loud applause. The crowd also applauded federal Liberal leadership contender Sheila Copps, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell and city councillors, and federal NDP MPs Libby Davies and Svend Robinson (accompanied by his partner, Max Riveron and Max’s Cuban mother).

A group of some 40 leftwing activists, including Queers United Against Kapitalism (QUAK), cut in front of Mayencourt’s parade entry to protest provincial Liberal cuts to social programs, health care and the BC Human Rights Commission. Shouting “Shame on the Liberals,” they asked the crowd whether Mayencourt had a right to participate in the parade.

After the protestors passed, the crowd greeted Mayencourt with noticeably less enthusiasm than the other politicians. The MLA handed out roses to parade spectators. Some spectators appeared thrilled to receive roses and there was sporadic clapping for Mayencourt; others drew back from Mayencourt’s approach. Some threw down the roses. Spectators reported sporadic booing of Mayencourt-a Vancouver first for an out gay politician.

Crowd-pleasing floats included the Vancouver Men’s Chorus’ dancing handymen, the tin man from the Wizard of Oz wearing an imported beer can penis, and the topless women on the NDP float. Viewers cheered loudly for youth entries and the same-sex marriage contingent.

One clearly emerging trend is bare-breasted women: a record number of topless women were found in the parade and throughout the festival site this year.

Author and CBC radio personality Bill Richardson was spotted in drag impersonating a female librarian, complete with a nifty sea-foam outfit.

Police chief Jamie Graham marched to applause. In comments to media, Graham contrasted the well-behaved “intelligent” community at Pride with the rowdies who created problems at the fireworks earlier in the week.

Audience favourites at the post-parade beach festival included performers Yvette and the Skinjobs. The crowd also loved MP Svend Robinson’s suggestion that the Catholic Church learn to protect the children in its own care before pronouncing on whether gays and lesbians make good parents. The most popular booths: tattoo airbrushing and Gayway with its retro computer quiz. The Vancouver Police Department fully staffed a recruitment booth, as well as a parade entry; police mingled with the crowd at the festival site.

James Oakes watched from the Hamburger Mary’s patio as a crowd arrived at the Davie St fair site just before 4 pm.

“I’m sitting here watching history unfold,” he said of Davie’s first-ever blocked-off street fair, sound stage and beer garden. “Once they give us stuff like this, the city can’t take it away.”

The fair’s schedule was set back after police were an hour late redirecting traffic from Davie St, and brewery trucks were unable to access the site.

Such typical first-time hitches resulted in a long delay before the drinking cages opened for customers.

“You’ve waited 25 years for this; what’s a couple more minutes?” asked MC Joan-E at one point.

Steven Schelling, spokesperson for the Vancouver Pride Society, was pleased with the crowd’s patience and thought it said a lot about how well-behaved gays are; a thirsty, hot crowd might have rioted in other communities. And there were no incidents of bad behaviour at the fair.

“It shows city hall, and the city itself: we had beer on site and not a single incident. It says something, including who should get funding and what level of policing we need.”

The VPS would like to expand the event next year so that more people can participate in the drinking. This year’s beer gardens proved far more popular than their capacity allowed for.

“We’re in a good position to get city support,” says Schelling.


Improving the street fair

An informal survey by Xtra West found people eager to suggest improvements for future years at the post-festival street fair and beer garden. They include:

• Wait until the festival on False Creek ends before opening the street fair so as not to undermine the stage acts. Shorten the festival or wait until 6 pm before opening the street fair (perhaps run the street fair and beer garden from 6 pm to 10 pm);

• Move the sound stage from the Bute-Davie intersection, which becomes too easily crowded. Put the stage at the far end of the street fair, as is done for Toronto Pride and the Vancouver Jazz Festival;

• Block off the street at each end of the street fair, like this year, and then allow people to walk around with beer in a plastic cup as was done for Italian Days on Commercial Dr some time ago;

• Alternatively, vastly increase the capacity of the beer garden so that a couple of thousand people can be seated, as is done at Kitchener’s Oktoberfest celebrations;

• Ensure sidewalks are not barricaded so that West End residents, including seniors in wheelchairs can pass. Also, ensure gate security is capable of diplomatic interaction with seniors and other West End residents.