Toronto Pride Week
Just recently I had a chance to sit down with Natasha Garda, Co-Chair, and Leon Mar, Media Coordinator of Pride Toronto. Pride Week is the fun and fabulous arts and culture festival that happens in the last week of June each year in Toronto. Pride Week celebrates our diverse sexual and gender identities, histories, cultures, lives, friends and families and has become one of Toronto’s biggest festivals and yearly entertainment events.
1. Please tell us about the history of Pride Week as part of Canada’s Queer Community and about this year’s theme
The theme for Pride Week 2005 is “Pride 25: 25 years and counting”. The event will be championed by Grand Marshal Salah Bachir, a generous philanthropist, successful businessman and visionary patron of the arts.
In 1981 Metro Toronto Police raided various bathhouses and caused extensive property damage as well as public embarrassment and humiliation to the visitors of the bathhouses. In 1991 80,000 people celebrated the Pride event. In 1999, Toronto’s then mayor Mel Lastman participated actively (with a “Supersoaker” water gun) in the Pride parade, while corporate sponsorship revenues were higher than ever and put Pride on firm financial footing for the next year.
The roots of Pride Toronto date all the way back to 1969, when drag queens and queer street kids rioted at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. In the same year, the Canadian federal government decriminalized homosexual acts for consenting adults over 21, under then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau who uttered his famous “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” statement. In 1971 Toronto’s first “Gay Day Picnic” was held at Hanlan’s Point.
2. Pride Toronto has a lot of special events, please tell us about all the events you have planned.
– The Pride Toronto Community Fair provides activists, community and non-profit groups with a public forum to explain their role in our community, educate about their mission, garner and recruit volunteers support for their cause. The Community Fair will take place 11:00 am on both Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th 2005.
– On Monday, June 20, 2005, Pride Toronto kicks off with a flag raising ceremony at City Hall. Citizens, politicians, friends and community members hear the Mayor read the Pride Week proclamation, raise the Rainblow Flag and enjoy food and entertainment.
– Family Pride: This child-friendly, interactive space provides an oasis for families of all kinds. Family Pride features crafts, games, children’s entertainment by Rainbow Songs and face painting as well as on-site daycare on the Saturday and Sunday of Pride Weekend.
– Pride Week culminates in the Pride Parade to be held on June 26, 2:00 pm. The Pride Parade is the climax of the Pride Week celebrations.
– The Dyke March (Saturday June 25, 2005 – 2pm) is an event within Pride Week (June 20th to the 26th) that provides a focus on women. It is open to women loving women of any race, culture, orientation, ability, health, economic group, family faith, structure or age. The March is for women only; however, we encourage men to support us from the sidelines.
– On Tuesday, June 21, 2005, the Pride Awards Gala 2005 marks the 25th annual Pride Week Festivities in Toronto. To salute this special year in history, Pride Toronto is organizing a wonderful gala dinner and awards show.
3. Pride Week 2005 offers a lot of entertainment for the whole family. Please tell us about all the different entertainment events you will be hosting.
Family Pride offers entertainment for children and the whole family while adults can enjoy a whole range of entertainment options. Music events include concerts with well-known performers and DJs.
groups that perform live shows. In addition, a theatre performance called “Cheap Queers” will be hosted in Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Pride Art Walk presents works from a network of local artists.
4. In addition, you will host concerts by 6 major artists. Please tell us about these free concerts.
Pride Week 2005 features up to seven stages of entertainment per day over three days from Friday, June 24th – Sunday, June 26th 2005. We are excited and proud to confirm the presentation of the six astounding, diverse and award-winning artists. The current line-up features David Usher, Carol Pope + Rough Trade, Simone Denny, DJ Dan, The Butchies and The Kinsey Sicks.
5. Please share with us some statistics of the event – how has it grown?
From its first official event in 1981, Pride Toronto has grown from a gathering of 1,500 people to a major entertainment event that draws an attendance of about 1 million people according to media reports. Pride Week is a free event to attend because Pride Toronto’s staff, volunteers and
Pride also has 5 full-time staff members and Pride Week is run by more than 700 volunteers. According to media estimates, Pride Week contributes about $80 million to the local economy.
6. How does Pride Toronto compare to other Inter Pride events?
Pride Toronto is a proud member of InterPride, the international association of Pride Event organizers. InterPride exists to promote Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and bisexual Pride on an international level, to increase networking and communication among Pride Organizations, to encourage diverse communities to attend and hold Pride Events, and to act as a source of
Other high-profile Pride Parades are held in cities including London – England, New York City, San Francisco, Sydney, and Melbourne. Pride Toronto is among the top Pride Events world-wide and distinguishes itself by the fact that it is still completely free to attend.
7. Please tell us about the acceptance of the event and the sponsors behind Pride Toronto.
In recent years, Pride Toronto has gained recognition and appreciation as one of Toronto’s most important festivals and now draws a very diverse audience from difference countries, different cultural and demographic backgrounds. Its mass appeal to the general population is evidenced by the fact that major sponsors have signed up to give Pride Toronto their support. Today, Pride Toronto enjoys the generous support of companies such as Labatt Blue, TD Canada Trust, Pizza Pizza, Air Canada, Trojan, IKEA, Hewlett-Packard and many more.
8. Just recently Pride Toronto was named the best Canadian festival – please tell us more about that.
Thank you, Natasha and Leon, for your time and all the best for next few hectic weeks in organizing this massive event.
The theme for Pride Week 2005 is “Pride 25: 25 years and counting”.- Pride Week culminates in the Pride Parade to be held on June 26, 2:00 pm. The Pride Parade is the climax of the Pride Week celebrations. Pride also has 5 full-time staff members and Pride Week is run by more than 700 volunteers.
I am very proud to report that in April of 2005, Pride Toronto was awarded the Best Festival in Canada title at the 8th Annual Canadian Event Industry Star Awards (CEIA), a national award program that recognizes outstanding achievements in Canadian special events, meeting management, conference planning and exhibition management.
In 1999, Toronto’s then mayor Mel Lastman participated actively (with a “Supersoaker” water gun) in the Pride parade, while corporate sponsorship revenues were higher than ever and put Pride on firm financial footing for the next year.