3 min

Vancouver Pride plans special celebration for 35th anniversary

'I think the community is going to see a very different Pride,' Lam says

Last year's Pride parade drew hundreds of thousands of revellers to Vancouver's West End. This year's parade takes place on Sunday, Aug 4.

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) wants to make this year’s signature events more accessible and affordable to ensure the celebration’s 35th anniversary is inclusive.

"I think the community is going to see a very different Pride,” says VPS general manager Ray Lam. “We’re trying to make everything more accessible and more accommodating to people."

"We’re trying to add free components to all of our events,” he continues, pointing, for example, to the entertainment stage at Gayday at Playland, which will now be moved to the off-season PNE grounds so “you won’t have to pay to watch the performances."

The Davie Street Dance Party will also be reformatted to include a fenceless block for alcohol-free, all-ages entertainment.

"The Davie Street Dance Party has always been a licensed event, but this year we are opening it up to have one dry block so that we can have youth come out, as well as people who don’t want to drink, so they can take back the streets with us,” Lam explains.

When asked how the VPS can afford to make potentially revenue-generating events free, in light of the $76,885 deficit it posted last year, Lam says some events aren’t about raising money.

"What we’re trying to do is provide space for people to enjoy Pride,” he says. “The intent of the event isn’t to make money. It’s more about bringing people together . . . to the West End and Davie Street in particular, so we can enjoy our community."

"Most of our events are intended to break even,’ he notes.

The VPS’s new civic designation will also help ease some financial burden by offsetting a significant portion of the city costs associated with staging the Pride parade. Vancouver city council voted unanimously for the designation May 29.

"We feel great about the parade designation,” Lam says. “We’ve been working on it for several, several years."

Lam says the VPS should end 2013 in better financial shape. “We don’t project a deficit this year,” he says. “Our projections are showing that the budget will be covered."

Last year’s deficit didn’t plunge the VPS into debt, Lam notes. Though the society spent $75,000 more than planned, it was still able to pay its bills, he says.

"In 2013, due to several adjustments to the administration and management of the VPS, we have budgeted for a net gain of $47,000,” he says. “This is due, in large part, to an ambitious target for partnership revenues and Pride Guide ad revenues."

Lam would not disclose how much partnership revenue the VPS has so far received this year but says projections point to the organization exceeding last year’s sum of $192,269.

"The success of our operational adjustments is how we are able to offer free components to our two ticketed events, Gayday at Playland and the Davie Street Party,” he says.

In addition to the ticketed events, Lam says the VPS has an exciting celebration planned for the 35th anniversary of Pride in Vancouver.

"What we’re focusing on is stories from our community,” he says. “Our stories, our journey . . . How the community has changed over the past 35 years. How Pride has changed and how that change has affected people."

As part of the commemoration, the VPS will host its first Pride Legacy Awards, a gala to showcase Vancouver’s rich queer history and the people who have dedicated their time and talent to the community.

Eight awards, each representing a colour of the rainbow, will be presented to individuals in the community who exemplify the spirit of Pride in the fields of sexual health, youth activism, community leadership, sports, queer spaces, queer arts and lifetime achievement.

"We’ll be showcasing people in the community that showcase the legacy of Pride in our community,” Lam says.

A committee of community members and VPS board members will select eight candidates among the people nominated. Nominations close June 18. The awards gala will be held July 20.