GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

Edmonton Pride Festival

Going strong and better than ever

Community by Krista Sylvester (From GayCalgary® Magazine, May 2015, page 7)
Edmonton Pride Festival: Going strong and better than ever
Image by: GayCalgary Magazine
Edmonton Pride Festival: Going strong and better than ever
Image by: GayCalgary Magazine
Edmonton Pride Festival: Going strong and better than ever
Image by: GayCalgary Magazine

Running a successful Pride festival is no easy feat, and the Edmonton Pride Festival Society would know, after growing the popular event for almost four decades with many growths and developments.

In the ’80s a small group of Edmonton’s queer community gathered to protest against the police and, since then, the festival has grown into what it is today: a community event where the police, politicians, gay community and its allies can gather and celebrate the people that made the movement possible.

With gay rights being in the spotlight this year – hello Gay Straight Alliances – it’s a perfect time to celebrate the advancement of gay rights in the province and the people who helped make it possible. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun in the sun while doing that, right? Edmonton Pride runs from June 5th to the 14th this year with over 40,000 people expected to attend. We had the chance to talk to Emil Tiedemann, Communications Director of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society, about this year’s events.

GC: Wow – 35 years of Edmonton Pride. How special is the anniversary this year, and tell us about the significance of 35 years of pride in Edmonton.

ET: We are so proud and excited to be celebrating the 35th anniversary of Edmonton Pride this year! We were one of the very first pride festivals in Canada, and so marking 35 years is a rare feat that we’re ready to commemorate with what will be the best Edmonton Pride yet! We’ve come a long way over the last three and a half decades, as has the whole LGBTQ+ community, and so we’re going to use this special anniversary to remember and celebrate all the people and places that gave Edmonton its Pride over the years.

GC: Obviously the festival has grown over the years, but how and what are some of the biggest changes?

ET: Edmonton Pride’s roots date back to the early ’80s when a small group of Edmonton’s queer community got together as a form of protest against a police raid on a local bathhouse. In that very first march people wore paper bags over the heads to hide their identity, out of fear of losing their jobs or being isolated from their friends and family. These days, thousands of people proudly take part in the parade with absolutely no fear.

That’s another major change; the amount of people who attend Edmonton Pride every June. From the handful of folks that very first year, to the tens of thousands of people from around the world who come together to celebrate our diversity, as well as our equality. And some of those people who show up to Pride are influential public figures who may or may not identify as queer, including municipal and provincial politicians, business leaders, and even athletes, like Edmonton Oiler Andrew Ference, who proudly walked the parade last year. There’s no more hiding underneath paper bags!

GC: How has the community changed, including both Edmonton-wide and the gay community?

ET: Edmonton and Alberta have had sort of a bad reputation in the past when it comes to acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, but that is no longer the case. We’re, perhaps, one of the most progressive regions in North America for LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, and we continue to push for equality for all, because we simply cannot accept anything less. Edmonton’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies are strong and proud, and growing every year.

GC: What’s new and exciting this year and how many people do you expect?

ET: The biggest change to this year’s Pride Festival will be our location. We are taking the festival from downtown and Churchill Square to the Old Strathcona neighbourhood for 2015, with the parade marching down Whyte Avenue, where it all began 35 years ago! We’re looking forward to returning to the Old Strathcona area for a number of reasons, namely the fact that we will have more room to work with, but also because that district is so well-known and frequented in Edmonton, with endless opportunities for festival goers and organizers.

There’s going to be so much going on during Edmonton Pride 2015, including some brand new ideas and concepts, as well as the favourites that have become standards at Pride (for example, the parade, Pride Awards, etc.). One of the most exciting events will be the Edmonton Queer History Project, which is a historical collaboration initiated by the Edmonton Pride Festival Society, the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, the Edmonton Community Foundation, and the City of Edmonton.

This project will capture the stories about the people, places and events that developed the queer community in Edmonton over the past 100 years, and will run at the Art Gallery of Alberta from June 5th to 21st.

There will also be the first-ever YEG Women & Trans Mini Festival (Sunday, June 7th) at the End of Steel Park, which is where the Pride in the Park celebration will commence after the parade on Saturday, June 6th. The Bounce Stage and Beverage Gardens will be highlighted with a performance by Canadian R&B sensation Jully Black. We will also be hosting the 2015 Rainbow Art Gallery & Pride Awards at the ATB Financial Arts Barns on Wednesday, June 10th and the Pride Family Picnic at the Oliver Community League Hall on Saturday, June 13th.

GC: Tell us about some of the highlights?

ET: We have put together a special one-time commemorative magazine called The Rainbow Effect, which will feature coming out stories, articles about the local queer movement, and interviews with some of the most prominent LGBTQ+ leaders and supporters in Edmonton, including Marni Panas, Dr. Kris Wells, Laurie Blakeman, Murray Billett, Mickey Wilson, and our Parade Grand Marshal Michael Phair. That publication will be out in mid-May and will be available for purchase at the Pride Festival and various businesses along Whyte Avenue.

GC: Anything you want to add?

ET: The Edmonton Pride Festival Society is proud to celebrate Pride every year in Edmonton, and we want to let everyone know that you’re all welcome to come out and enjoy yourself, be yourself, and take pride in yourself. Whether you’re gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, pansexual, genderqueer, straight, or whatever else you might identify as, you’re welcome to come and join us in celebrating what makes all of us who we are!



Comments on this Article