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Vancouver Dyke March in jeopardy

Participation hits all-time low

Despite advertising for volunteers through public online community sites, Craigslist, superdyke.com and charityvillage.com, Dyke March director Michelle Fortin says interest in the annual event has been minimal. "We had one person respond." Credit: Brittney Kwasney photo

Vancouver’s largest women’s Pride event will end unless the community steps up to help save it, say Dyke March and Festival organizers.
 
It was clear the Vancouver Dyke March and Festival Society was in jeopardy when the organization’s six board members were the only ones to attend the group’s annual general meeting on Feb 19, says director Michelle Fortin. “For the very first time we didn’t have a single person attend from the community,” she says.
 
Despite advertising for community participants through public online community sites, Craigslist, superdyke.com and charityvillage.com, Fortin says interest has been minimal. “We had one person respond,” she says.
 
Due to public disinterest in the event, Fortin says the board has not yet sent in its application for a celebration grant to the city.
 
The Dyke March and Festival costs an average of $15,000 to host. The city generally covers about a third of the costs, as well as the costs of bus shelter ads for the event, Fortin says.
 
“If the community shows some support and effort we believe we can have a talk with the city and get support,” Fortin says, when asked if it’s too late now to approach the city for 2011.
 
The Dyke March board has also talked with the Vancouver Pride Society, who Fortin says have offered to help keep the event alive. “They’ve been wonderful,” says Fortin. “They don’t want to see the Dyke March and Festival not go on this year.” Although they want the march to remain separate from the downtown Pride parade, she adds.
 
“It would be an absolute tragedy for Vancouver to lose its Dyke March,” says Pride Society president Ken Coolen. “It is a very integral part of Pride weekend.”
 
“I would be incredibly disappointed if I didn’t have a women-centric and women-supported event during the day on Pride weekend,” agrees Fortin.
 
Barb Snelgrove was a 2010 Pride parade marshal. She too thinks the Dyke March is too important to lose. “It gives women in the community a strong voice and an opportunity to enjoy an event that they can call their own,” she says. “I hope they can continue to provide this great alternative for eastside supporters.”
 
“We’re quite motivated to stick around and put on an event,” Fortin assures. “There isn’t anyone jumping ship. But we’d like others to join us.”
 
On April 27 the Dyke March board, in partnership with the Pride Society, will hold a community meeting at the WISE Hall to determine whether there is enough interest to host the eighth annual Dyke March and Festival. Fortin says she hopes the meeting will attract a variety of people — especially young dykes with a passion to keep the event going and bring something innovative to the table.

This is a “save the Dyke March and Festival” meeting, Fortin says. “We want the festival to continue and to really be relevant. The board is getting older. We want to get in touch with the younger generation.”