It couldn’t have been more appropriate: WorldPride 2014 in Toronto ended with a huge rainbow. The clouds opened at Yonge-Dundas Square during the closing ceremonies, drenching revellers but failing to dampen their spirits. After the downpour a rainbow appeared, arcing over the square where thousands had gathered to celebrate the final day of WorldPride.
The 10-day festival ended with a huge outdoor concert that featured performers Cece Peniston, Robin S, Rich Aucoin and Tegan and Sara, who closed off the celebrations with a high-energy set that included their Juno-winning hit song “Closer.”
As the festivities got underway, the Pride parade was still marching by on Yonge Street. Host Mike Chalut told the crowd that more than 12,000 people had marched in the almost six-hour parade, which included 350 floats.
The closing ceremony began with the raising of a giant rainbow flag as Chalut thanked the Pride Toronto organizers and their 2,000-plus volunteers who helped make the festival possible.
“I have the great honour of working with a small staff team and a large group of volunteers, team leads, artists and incredibly talented production staff who have been tireless in their efforts to make this the best WorldPride ever,” Pride Toronto executive director Kevin Beaulieu told the crowd. “Ten days ago, I asked us all to take care of one another, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive spirit I’ve seen everywhere, peeking through the rainbows that have simply been all over the city.”
An opening dance number choreographed by Jeff Dimitriou kicked off the performances, followed by sets by Devine Darlin and lesbian rap duo God-Des & She, whose energetic performance included the song “Lick It,” which instructed the audience on the finer points of cunnilingus. “Make sure that you take all this energy out into the world because if you don’t, no one else will,” God-Des told the crowd at the end of their set. “Be out. Be proud.”
Toronto alt-rockers Hunter Valentine also performed, pumping up the audience with their powerful, classic-rock-inspired vocals. “I just wanna say something to the people whose first Pride it is ever: congratulations on your newfound freedom,” lead singer Kiyomi McCloskey said.
InterPride co-presidents Gary Van Horn and Sue Doster noted how much has changed globally since the last WorldPride, just two years ago. “Looking back at the time of the last WorldPride, in London in 2012, people could marry in the great country of Canada but in only 12 other countries,” Doster said. “In the US, marriage equality was allowed by just six states. Today, 16 countries around the globe support the freedom to marry, and in the US, the total has grown to 20 states and all branches of the United States Armed Forces.”
Van Horn reminded the crowd that there is still work to do, speaking of the many countries around the world with anti-gay laws. “We’ve got to continue to change people’s hearts and minds,” he said. “We have proven that if we stand together, we cannot fail.”
“I just wanted to thank you for having me here,” Anna Rekhviashvili, this year’s international grand marshal from Georgia, told the crowd. “It has been an amazing experience to be here with you to march with people from so many places united under the same spirit.”
Toronto Pride co-chairs Sean Hillier and Kelly Craig then handed over WorldPride to its 2017 host city, Madrid.
After the speeches, Rich Aucoin performed a frenetic set, at one point spreading a huge rainbow parachute over the audience. He was followed by a surprise performance by Hedwig, who sang the musical’s popular number “Sugar Daddy.”
The most anticipated performers, of course, were headliners Tegan and Sara. The lesbian twins finally took to the stage at 9:45pm, beginning their set with an explosive performance of “Goodbye, Goodbye,” from their Juno-winning 2013 album Heartthrob. They showed their appreciation for their longtime fans with a few older hits, including “Monday Monday Monday” and “Back in Your Head.”
Calling the Toronto performance the highlight of their current tour, the sisters recalled their first-ever Pride experience — in Toronto in 1998. “It got to us and then we came out,” they told the crowd.
“We’re so excited to be gay,” Tegan said. “I keep thinking, ‘My god, what if it wears off?”
They closed the night with a high-powered performance of their Juno-winning single “Closer,” which featured fireworks and pyrotechnics as they left the stage.
As the crowds poured out of Yonge-Dundas Square and made their way down Yonge Street to enjoy the late-night festivities and prolong the end of WorldPride for just a few more hours, a lone protester stood sullenly, holding a Bible-themed sign and appearing to miss the point spectacularly.