3 min

The return of Ottawa Pride

Plans for parade route, street party underway

PRIDE ALWAYS. The flag will fly for Ottawa's Pride Festival this year. Credit: Shawn Scallen

Despite a late start, looming debt and an incomplete staff, the crippled 2003 Pride Committee is still hobbling along because they chose the right set of crutches.

“We’ve been extremely responsible,” says committee chair Robin Duetta. “I’m very proud of the decisions the board is making. We’re being very responsible with the tasks we’ve been handed and we’re making some very good decisions with regards to the business aspects of this event.”

Duetta maintains that creditors, local merchants and the GLBT community are behind his committee’s efforts to organize and deliver the heart of Ottawa’s alternative lifestyle, the Pride Festival.

“There’s a shift in the motivation of the community. People are starting to hear positive things about what’s happening and they’re seeing things taking place,” says Duetta.

“The thousands of people who attended last year brought a significant economic component to GLBT merchants. This is a high priority for the business community.”

Duetta says the committee will also take action to alleviate the concerns of creditors.

“We will be shortly issuing a small payment to our creditors to show them our good intentions, and it is our intention to have this debt covered this year.”

But Duetta admits the committee is still working to overcome the turmoil of this year and is having trouble filling open positions, even with available funding.

With the April resignation of the initial 2003 committee, Duetta’s group (which includes first vice-chair Kevin Falkingham, second vice-chair Janet Vachon and treasurer Geoff Robbins) has had precious little time to pull in loose ends and strategize. On the plus side, the neglected website has been recently updated to include contact information for would-be volunteers, but at present the secretarial position remains vacant and no one has applied for the three temporary full-time paid staff positions financed by the Festival Network and HRDC.

“I don’t know why people aren’t responding to these opportunities,” complains Duetta, closely echoing the previous committee. “It’s desperate. We need people.”

But preparations for this year’s Pride are still well in hand.

Applications for parade permits and street closures are now in the works for the Jul 12 bash, and negotiations involving OC Transpo, the Ottawa Police, the Fire Department and emergency services are under way.

Concerns raised by the City of Ottawa over lack of personnel during last year’s festival, which famously drew an estimated 100,000 revellers to Ottawa, and the issue of cost has led to a shortening of this year’s parade and the exclusion of Gatineau from the route.

“We’ve decided to lessen the length of the parade and take a different route and invite our brothers and sisters from Quebec to join us in Ottawa this year and help us work on solutions for next year,” says Duetta.

Parade-goers will meet at Catherine and Elgin, walk north up Elgin to Wellington, head west past the Parliament Buildings and turn south on Bank Street to the parade’s official end at Lisgar.

As with Pride 2002, this year’s festival will have three stages – the dance stage at Bank and Gilmour, the drag stage at Bank and Somerset and a community stage near James Street. Other perks include the Pride Pub Tour, for which you buy a passport that allows you to visit select bars featuring Pride-related themes and functions, and the use of trolleys and double-decker buses exclusively retained for the festival.

“The main focus is the dance stage that’s hosted by Wilde’s and the Lookout,” says Duetta. “There’ll be DJs and live performances there, much like it was last year. That was one of the most popular sites of the street festival.”

Regarding the important issue of beer, the Pride committee is currently considering sponsors for beer gardens meant to alleviate extended bar patios.

“We’ve ended our contractual agreement with Labatt’s and we’re looking for new sponsorship opportunities out there,” says Duetta, adding that the committee is being courted by a number of high-profile companies who have expressed interest in sponsoring Pride events.

“The festival has changed a lot and it’s opened up a whole new market to us.”

The Pride committee will also be fundraising during the event.

Fundraising initiatives will involve soliciting donations from those entering the site on Bank St.

“I think people loved Pride enough last year and are looking as forward to this one that they will definitely be generous with us at the gates,” reasons Duetta. “Last year set the bar, this year we’ll raise it.”