To put it simply, our cats have really missed us. Since the June edition came out, we have been out of town every single weekend this month. Thank goodness for our automatic food and water dispensers, and each other’s company to tide them over in our absence. But this is to be expected for the LGBT community in June, and we were along for the ride.
We made our way up to Edmonton for the weekends of the 9th and the 16th to cover the Pride festivities. This being the first time we have visited our sister city since this past November, a great many people were surprised and happy to see us, as were we just as happy to see them and to be back again.
When we’ve visited the city in the past, we had been staying with Steve’s sister who was doing HIV research at the University of Alberta, however this was no longer possible; the funding necessary for her to continue her research had fallen through and she was in the process of moving back home to Calgary before looking for work elsewhere. In fact, we helped transport some of her belongings back to Calgary as she was finalizing her move.
So instead, we were able to make an arrangement to stay at the Coast Plaza Hotel, which we were very happy with. The hotel rooms in the building are like small condos, with a kitchenette, a small living room (with a gorgeous view if you’re on a higher floor), and a separate bedroom. Additionally there is a swimming pool and fitness centre in the building, though our weekend was too hectic for us to find the time to make use of them. So it was comfortable and a great deal more private than staying with family. As people who don’t use hotels very often, Steve and I both felt really at home here.
We arrived on Friday, June 8th to photograph some ancillary bar events, such as the BEEF BearBash at the Junction, and the PURE Pride Meet and Greet at Flash. The BearBash was packed, as always, with big hairy men and their admirers, just having a fun time drinking and dancing.
The next morning, the Edmonton Pride Parade was its usual fantastically colourful display of local groups and businesses, which you can watch for yourself in our online photo/video gallery (http://www.gaycalgary.com/p23040). As for the Celebration on the Square, my only disappointment was with the looming storm clouds that hung overhead all day. Attendees were lucky to stay dry while they went about their drinking, dancing, and watching the stage show, until about 5pm when the skies opened up briefly but strongly. This didn’t kill the mood however, and the dancing continued on well into the evening.
A good deal of politicians showed up this year to speak on stage before the main show, including regulars like Laurie Blakeman, Rachel Notley, Mayor Stephen Mandell, and perhaps surprisingly our Premier, Allison Redford! All were very well received.
In the evening was the much anticipated PURE Pride dance at the Starlight room – a unique venue that afforded them 4 separate dance floors of varying sizes. Organizers tell us the event sold out of tickets the day prior to the dance. For each PURE Pride dance, they have regularly brought out well-known porn stars, among other acts, to entertain and mingle with party-goers. Last year for Calgary it was the smooth and slender Brent Everett, but this time around it was the muscle daddy Samuel Colt (interviewed in our June edition) and his younger tattooed boyfriend Chris Porter. Now, I’ve learned to keep my cool around celebrities over the years to the point where a lot of times I don’t even bother them for anything, but during the meet and greet at Flash, the two of them in muscle shirts had me blushing and stuttering like a nervous school girl as I got their autographs. Sigh. The two of them put on a VERY HOT stage performance (http://www.gaycalgary.com/p23201) to a solid-packed dance floor. Steve and I could barely move as we filmed and photographed from the crammed front row, breathless, and probably a little stiff.
We returned the next weekend to photograph some of the Pride wrap-up events, which can be seen in this edition and in our online photo gallery. We were proud once again this year to be a sponsor of Edmonton Pride.
The weekend of the 23rd we went for a little road trip down to Lethbridge Pride. Along the way we couldn’t help stopping at the Candy Store in Nanton to stock up on a wide variety of goodies to sample over the next few months. I have something of a sweet tooth, but as a diabetic I have to take it slow when it comes to candy. Actually, I was still working on my stockpile from Easter.
Lethbridge Pride hasn’t reached critical mass to put on a full-fledged parade just yet, but they’ve held a fun and well attended street festival for the past 4 years as their main event, along with several other smaller events around town that span the week leading up to it. Galt Gardens, where OUT in the Park is held, is a very scenic spot with an outdoor theatre that is perfect for the bevy of performances that occur throughout the afternoon. Later in the evening they held a Pride Dance to continue the celebration.
GayCalgary Magazine has been a proud sponsor of Lethbridge Pride for the past 3 years.
As multimedia sponsors of the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, a title and role created specially for us to acknowledge our yearly contributions in promoting the event, we look forward to this weekend attraction for the whole year. In the past we’ve rented a camper so that we could stay out on the grounds to do our signature brand of photo and video coverage. This year we did things a little differently, however...I guess you could say we worked smarter rather than harder.
First off, we saved a bundle of money by booking at a hotel rather than renting a camper. We narrowly claimed one of the last available rooms at the Strathmore Travelodge, the sponsor hotel for the weekend. With many things taken care of by the hotel amenities, we only needed to haul a single car load out to Strathmore, rather than 2 or 3. We appreciated some of the additional perks of this hotel, such as the complimentary breakfasts, pie and cookies throughout the day. Again there was a swimming pool – this one with a waterslide – which we never got around to enjoying.
But that was okay because we had a pretty mellow run this year compared to the past. After several years building an over abundance of photos and video footage from the rodeo arena, organizers encouraged us to spread our efforts to the many other aspects of the weekend: the music festival, the midway, the dances, and the campgrounds. So this meant we didn’t need to be stationed in the grandstands, and both of us were free to roam. We prepared photo presentations for the dances, though both nights were too windy to set up the inflatable screen to display them. However, with an internet connection available to us this time, we were able to post highlights from the weekend into our online photo/video gallery as they happened and blast them out on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
For instance, we posted videos of the DC Cowboys as they kicked the Friday and Saturday night dances off with two unique and energizing performances. We were happy for the opportunity to get their autographs, as they informed us they are on their final tour before they plan to retire the group. You may remember them from their audition on America’s Got Talent a few years back. In fact, they have been to Calgary for previous rodeos.
The Saturday Night dance was probably the busiest we’ve ever seen for the dance hall at Strathmore. The new concept of Tornado Nightclub (a wink at last year’s brush with an actual twister) was definitely a hit! For the hundreds of people that wanted to dance, the hall was aglow with a spectacular lighting system and pounding with tunes from several rising DJs; for those who didn’t, it was a beautiful night outside the hall in the corral area where further hundreds gathered to drink and chat, or chill out by the fire pits. Organizers estimate there were close to 2500 people at the dance that night, making them the largest gay "night club" in Alberta, possibly even in Western Canada, for the weekend. It’s a rare opportunity these days for many Calgarians to experience a dance club environment where they don’t need Grindr to find other gay people in the room.
During the day, the music festival took place on the Showboat stage with over 30 hours of live music and some truly fantastic performers. Local groups like Boy & Gurl, Hashmagandy, the Backyard Betties, and numerous others made appearances throughout the weekend to entertain the masses and keep the Midway lively. Saturday on the midway, among other carnival games there was the opportunity to soak the ISCCA’s current reigning Emperor, Empress, and others in the dunk tank.
Speaking subjectively, Steve and I were once again agape at the many smoking hot cowboys, many of whom we only see at this event each year; some of them from outside of Alberta, and some of them from right in our own backyard. While the true cowboys and cowgirls were likely all in the arena, this weekend serves to indulge a fantasy for many of us: we’re empowered to explore our inner cowboy/cowgirl (cow...person?), and witness others doing the same. Admittedly, even I had some fun strutting my stuff in a cowboy hat, showing some skin, watching people’s reactions and even posing for photos. Though if it came to riding a bull...well, that’s where this fun roleplay would come to a screeching halt.
At the end of the day, it was wonderful to retire to our hotel room – to sleep on a proper mattress and bathe in a full sized shower, without the commotion of people around us all hours of the night and morning, and without the whole room rocking any time one of us needed to get up to go to the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy camping recreationally, but the creature comforts were much appreciated when we were feeling so wiped out from running around out in the sun.
On Sunday, the awards ceremony took place on the Showboat stage instead of in the dance hall as it has been in the past. GayCalgary Magazine proudly presented the buckle for All-around Cowboy this year.
The final dance that night was well attended, although a flash downpour of rain likely prevented more from making it over to the hall. The rain caused several areas around the grounds to flood, and next day campers were excited to tell their stories of how they coped with the adverse conditions. Perhaps next year’s dance venue will be branded "Typhoon Nightclub" instead!
All in all, it was a great weekend to celebrate our country western culture in our own gay way.
BREAKING NEWS - Bar Closures
This past February, the Calgary Eagle celebrated its 10th year in operation at its current location in Calgary’s East Village. Over the past few years, the bar has endured severe inconveniences due to construction as part of the East Village Revitalization project, including the temporary closure of their entire street, and frequent closures of many streets nearby that were used to access them.
As if losing Club Sapien and FAB weren’t enough, the Calgary Eagle recently announced that their building has been sold and that the new owner has plans for the future with them not included – they have been given until the end of October to vacate. This means the days are numbered for Calgary’s only leather bar.
The news came as a shock when it was given to the owners in May, but was only officially released to bar staff and media shortly after this past Rodeo weekend. Owners are still deciding how to deal with the situation, and requested GayCalgary Magazine hold off interviewing them until our next edition (August 2012), so that they can share finalized plans and details with us.
Alberta Bar Survey
Many media outlets, both LGBT and mainstream, have written articles about the decline of gay bars in their own cities, offering a wide range of theories to explain the alarming trend: everything from the weak economy, to the improving state of gay rights making gay bars no longer necessary. At the same time, individuals continue to lament the erosion of community and the loss of safe gay spaces.
We at GayCalgary Magazine feel it’s time to stop guessing and start finding some real answers for our region – both Calgary and Edmonton. We intend to do this by asking the people of our community how they honestly feel about their local bar scene. We want to hear from the people who don’t go out to bars (anymore?) just as much as we want to hear from hardcore bar goers, and everyone in between. We want to know what you love or hate about your local bars - what keeps you coming out, or what has driven you away.
Stay tuned for GayCalgary Magazine’s Alberta Bar Survey coming online this month, where we’ll be asking a lot of tough questions that need to be answered. The results of this survey, for better or for worse, will be shared in a future edition of GayCalgary Magazine.
July will be a bit of a breather for those who need it, us included. Aside from the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton’s Capital Ex, there aren’t many other events going on for the LGBT community.
A notable exception, however, is the Les Girls Break the Bank dance on July 20th. Read the article and see their ad in this edition.
For more information on July happenings, check out our online Events Calendar at http://www.gaycalgary.com/events