Toronto
2 min

The year’s biggest holiday

Working at Pride is really play

CELEBRATE. Happy Pride Day! Credit: Xtra files

Pride’s volunteer coordinator will put his own family to work that weekend.



“My sister, who’s not gay, will be here all day to help,” says David Clark. It’s her day away from the kids. “She loves it. My parents are volunteering in the bank.”



Clark’s family will cover a handful of the 500 shifts that need filling during Pride weekend.



It’s the first time his folks have offered, although they’ve come down from their home base of Ottawa to watch the festivities for a few years in a row.



Clark says coming out to them worked out fine.



“They knew, it was fairly obvious. ‘He doesn’t date girls much.'”



One day in 1993 his dad asked Clark if he was coming for Easter. “I took a deep breath and said no, I was going to Washington to march for lesbian and gay rights. And he said, ‘Should be good weather. The cherry blossoms should be out.'”



Clark’s first Pride parade was in 1986 – he’d just moved from the country’s capital. “I don’t think they had anything like that in Ottawa. All they had was a closeted civil service.



“My sister and I came down and watched and took the dog in the parade – back when you could still have a dog in the parade [when there were fewer people to step on a pet’s paws]. It was still on Church St” and a few thousand people marched.



He went from helping out with security to being Pride co-chair for two years – during controversial times, too.



A no-nudity rule came in under his reign, with a naked woman arrested by police in 1998. (Pride committee members didn’t bother to track what became of her.)



These last few weeks, Clark’s been on the phone every day, at least three hours at a stretch, looking for commitments of time.



Some of the names are taken from a database from the last two years – invariably, people have moved, numbers have changed.



Sunny days are bad for reaching people. “You play the phone tag thing.”



Names are written in to a huge map on the wall. Then each is scheduled for a quick orientation – and slotted in for the big day.



Clark smiles ruefully. These days, a big coup is snatching three volunteers in one phone call. “That was worth the nickel!” he laughs.



There’s mother-daughter teams and singles and couples.



Everybody, regardless of their job title, gets their hands dirty. Clark will spend Pride Day itself staffing the volunteer tent (located in the laneway on the west side of Church between the old Toby’s restaurant and Café California).



Clark recalls that last year, one of the members of the board of directors had to step out in the early morning rain to tie banners onto one of the stages. Minutes later, dripping wet and covered in sawdust, he formally – and very seriously – shook hands with big-name corporate sponsors and sold them on Pride.



Pride Day itself is Sun, Jun 25. To volunteer, call (416) 92-PRIDE or check out www.pridetoronto.com.