To cap off a week of Pride festivities, thousands of Winnipeggers took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate the event’s 22nd anniversary.
Bearing bright balloons, flags and banners, large crowds of people gathered outside of the Manitoba Legislative Building for Winnipeg’s annual Pride parade. It was hard to miss the men dressed in elaborate cone-shaped bras and the children in rainbow sun suits grasping pride flags.
The theme for this year’s Pride was ‘Stronger Together’, a message that resonated with the more than 5,000 people who filled the downtown streets under a hot, June sun.
Gathering at the Legislative Building at noon, the crowd heard performances from the Rainbow Harmony Project and short speeches from Pride organizers. Before the parade floats got rolling, the crowd received a history lesson on the origins of a flag that has come to symbolize the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.
“It is the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag and it is important to know where we come from to know where we are going,” said activist Brad Tyler-West. “This flag reminds us that we don’t have to censor ourselves and… it unites us with our brothers and sisters around the globe who don’t have the same rights secured as we do here in Canada.”
As soon as the speeches wrapped up, more than 50 parade floats and banners poured out of the Legislative grounds with people taking to the streets to follow alongside the floats. The parade included floats from the University of Manitoba’s Rainbow Pride Mosaic, Gio’s Bar and Klinic Community Health Centre. There were a few groups, however, that stood out from past years, such as the Flaming Trolleys Marching Band, Winnipeg’s Radical Queers, and an S & M group.
“We’ve come a long way from 30 to 40 years ago,” says Jason van Rooy who counted this year’s Pride event as his 14th. “This year trans issues are more prevalent as well as gender and sexual expression. People are more comfortable talking about these things on the street now.”
Pride kicked off on May 30 with the Womyn’s Boat Cruise and included events during the week such as a roller derby, a coffee house, a baseball and golf tournament, a movie festival and the wildly popular Fusion dance party on the evening of the parade.
For most people, however, it is the parade that is the most anticipated event of Pride because it is able to bring together such a diverse group of people.
“Everyone from different parts of the queer community can come together on this day,” says Ray Desautels, who was on this year’s Pride organizing committee.
Following the parade, people converged in Memorial Park for what Desautels describes as a ‘queer block party’ where people relaxed and socialized while watching entertainment and visiting information booths and vendors.
For many, the event is about celebrating the successes of the queer movement, but it cannot be denied that it is also about meeting new people and having a good time. As one male parade-goer admitted, “it’s the politics that brings me out to the Pride Parade, but my favourite part of all this is the boys.”