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Winnipeg to host 2014 Pride conference

Niemczak says annual conference changed his life

Jonathan Niemczak credits the annual InterPride conference with changing Winnipeg Pride, not to mention his life. Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Niemczak

Behind every great Pride festival, there’s a guy like Jonathan Niemczak. While you’re deciding what party to hit or which hottie to cruise, Niemczak is working out all the logistics.

At Pride, what turns him on is event management — and now, Niemczak is about to do it on a national level. That’s because the 24-year-old president of Winnipeg Pride just found out that his organization won the bid to host a 2014 gathering of Pride organizers from across Canada.

“It’s a prestigious event and a great honour,” Niemczak says of the Fierté Canada Pride and InterPride Region 7 conference and annual general meeting, to be held March 27 to 30, 2014.

The capital of Manitoba beat Alberta’s capital in its bid to play host. “I guess they liked our package better than Edmonton’s,” Niemczak says.

Don’t expect delegates to focus on drag queens and dykes on bikes, though. The Canadian Pride conference is where organizers like Niemczak go to work out the practical challenges of the fast-growing Pride movement — everything from board management to crowd management.

Niemczak loves the annual gathering and credits it with changing Winnipeg Pride, not to mention his life.

In 2008, he went to the conference’s event management workshop and loved it so much that he decided to pursue business studies at university. The workshop also helped influence Niemczak’s fight to move Winnipeg Pride to a much bigger venue, the historic Forks site. It’s a move that tripled attendance and doubled Winnipeg’s Pride budget to $100,000.

Niemczak says the Manitoba capital has a “more mature, stable, larger Pride,” thanks to what he and his fellow volunteers learned at past InterPride conferences.

The Winnipeg gathering promises to be more than a series of meetings. Niemczak and his Winnipeg Pride colleagues put in a pitch that includes trips to bars, art galleries and the city’s long-awaited Canadian Museum for Human Rights if it opens on time (which is a big if, since the museum’s launch date has already been delayed more than once).

One thing Niemczak promises is an economical conference. “We’re trying to make it as cheap as possible,” he says, pointing out that Winnipeg’s central location should make it attractive to delegates from all coasts. Niemczak expects between 50 and 100 people to show up.

Niemczak can also expect some friendly ribbing over his organization’s claim that Winnipeg is “home to the largest celebration of LGBT culture between Toronto and Vancouver.” He admits Pride-goers from Edmonton and Calgary have raised questions about that.

“It depends on how you interpret it,” Niemczak says. “We’re a lot more sparkly.”

Next year’s Fierté Canada Pride conference will be in Ottawa from March 15 to 17, 2013.