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My Pride Timeline

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Pride 2001

​My first Pride festival was 1997. Was it Lethbridge’s first? I don’t remember one in 1996, and I certainly would have gone. Lethbridge in 1997 was a very different place than it is now, with a giant Pride Fest happening at a major mainstream downtown club. Then, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Lethbridge and Area (GALA/LA) threw monthly events at the Croatian Hall, outside of town, and the ’97 Pride event was even further into the country. There were some queens down from Calgary (likely ISCCA, not that I knew what that was then) for a show at a little gay BBQ. Even the prospect of a slip n slide wasn’t enough to keep me there, not when my friend Dave suggested ditching for a night in Calgary, where I could slip and slide into some hot boy’s bed. 

My first (and last, come to think of it) Calgary pride saw a very hungover me ending up actually walking in the parade, with Calgary’s queer youth group at the time, I-dentity. The fact that impromptu attendance at my first parade involved me being in it was par for the course of who and how I was then: gay gay gay gay gay and you better know it (as opposed to now, when it’s gay gay gay gay gay, but let me nap). And yes, that parade was empowering AF, but my clearest memory of my first Pride was the vodka-soaked kisses of Michael with the ice-blue eyes. 

My first Edmonton pride was 1999, I guess? I wasn’t really involved in the community yet; I’d only been back from Lethbridge a couple months. I didn’t know then how big a role Edmonton Pride would play in my life. By 2000, I was Village People’ing and crashed the Roost float, and by 2001, I was reigning as Prince for Reign 25 with the ISCWR and was actually invited to be on a float legitimately. 2001 saw a shift in the Pride festival into a format it would keep for two decades, with the parade leading into a beer garden, entertainment stage, and resource fair. 

In 2002, I joined the Pride board (then called EPWS – Edmonton Pride Week Society) as Secretary. Things were going along great with plans for Pride 2003 (The Flame Within) until blatant transphobia derailed the board. In the fall-out, one of the board members who had been tasked with parade organizing went around  and cancelled all those plans before quitting. I was left the only member of the Executive, and it fell on me to cancel those cancellations, while emergency board recruits like Mickey and Erin Wilson salvaged the society. Yes, people had tried to extinguish the flame, but it burned brighter than ever that year. 

It’s weird, but looking back, becoming involved with the community when I did, I saw less problems facing Pride from external enemies and more problems from within the community. The bigger Pride got, the more internal politics and ego it had to contend with.

2004’s Pride was particularly memorable for me. In 2003, Michael Brown and myself started a gay monthly magazine called Fresh (with a lot of financial help from our respective partners). While I could easily go off on a tangent here and talk about how here again internal community politics were the biggest hurdles, for the purposes of this piece, what is important is that Fresh Magazine was recognized at the 2004 Pride Awards at City Hall. 

2004’s Pride was particularly memorable for me. In 2003, Michael Brown and myself started a gay monthly magazine called Fresh (with a lot of financial help from our respective partners). While I could easily go off on a tangent here and talk about how here again internal community politics were the biggest hurdles, for the purposes of this piece, what is important is that Fresh Magazine was recognized at the 2004 Pride Awards at City Hall. 

The parade shifted course again in 2005. At my first Edmonton Pride, it had gone down 100 Ave, then later, westbound on Jasper to Oliver Park, but in 2005, we were heading EAST on Jasper and ending in Churchill Square. I cannot stress enough how important a victory this was. This represented an acceptance of Pride as part of the city in a way that nothing else had. We were in the heart of the city, and here to stay – and it truly felt like mission accomplished. I was managing Buddys in 2005; Buddys etc had always had some of the most amazing floats in the parade, and I was excited to be part of that. This was the pinnacle to date of my professional fulfillment, and I still love that summer 2005 Buddys/Woodys team with all my heart. That being said, it’s possible that year was the coldest Edmonton Pride I’ve ever experienced. Although Binki and Vanity (in their Pride hosting debut) tried to keep everyone entertained, the temperature was dropping as fast as the rain, and by the end of the show, Churchill was pretty deserted. All that remained was our Buddys/Woodys team, because cold beer keeps wet gays warm!

Pride at Churchill continued to grow, but life for me was increasingly less proud. By 2006, I was a full-fledged cocaine user, and the snowfall definitely took priority over the rainbow. Which isn’t to say I didn’t participate still. Village People reunited for the 2007 mainstage (don’t ask me how, considering I was essentially homeless that Pride). And then came 2008, the first time I went to Pride still up from the night before. But the crowds continued to grow, and not just because I was seeing double.

Village People reunited one more time for the Pride mainstage, in 2009. We’d perform together a bit more after that, but never anywhere so big. 

2011 was my first sober pride. It was a different scene then, compared to my first Edmonton pride. The Roost was long gone, and Boots was freshly closed. New kids on the block like Play, Flash, and Pure had dominated the 2010 line-up, but in 2011, my focus was just on our programming at Junction. I didn’t really have much interest in the parade anymore, at least not as a participant. It was time to pay off years of cocaine debt, and start shaping up professionally. The theme for 2011 was Stand UP, and for the first time in a long time, I was standing up, proud and sober. 

By 2013, we knew EVO was in the works. Though I was living in Calgary at the time, I was up for Edmonton Pride to visit friends (Calgary pride had long since relocated to September long weekend to avoid overlapping with us). Little did I know then that I wouldn’t go back to Calgary. By the end of Edmonton Pride 2013, we had signed a lease and EVO, originally planned for Calgary, was about to be.

Evolution’s first Pride was 2014. We’d selected a Circus theme, because I had seen first hand how internal themes could be great for venue programming and floats. That year was the last year Edmonton Pride was at Churchill, with the parade going right down 102 ave by the bar. We were the new kid on the block now, and we were intent on making our mark. We did, for sure, and maybe we felt we made enough of a mark that that was the one and only Pride Parade we participated in. That was likely more to do with the official festivities relocating to the original home on Whyte. Whyte Pride wasn’t nearly as convenient for us, downtown, so we turned our focus inwards. 

There were definitely some conflicts with the Edmonton Pride Festival Society that dampened my enthusiasm for festivities, but like any non-profit, boards change, so every year really was a fresh start. While we were professionally on a different page, I still respected the work, and was honoured to help judge the parade floats one year.  Still, we missed downtown programming, and we missed programming that helped the little non-profits we worked with all year. That’s why, in 2017, we started the 103 St Community Street Festival. I’m grateful for the team at EVO that picked up my slack while I navigated the hoops and hurdles that went along with that first year, and loved seeing its huge success only grow in 2018.

In the spring of 2019, the Edmonton Pride Festival Society announced the cancellation of their events. Media picked up on this as a cancellation of Pride entirely, and I feel I spent weeks trying to correct that narrative. EPFS events were not the whole of Pride. We doubled the size of our Community Festival that year, and helped get a Pride Guide out, and so many other groups kept their programming going. Never let anyone tell you that Edmonton Pride 2019 was cancelled, because it wasn’t. 

In the summer of 2019, we started the plans to relocate our Community Street Festival from 103 St to Churchill Square. With the dissolution of EPFS, it was time to go back to the heart of the city, and LRT construction on 102 Ave was forcing us off the street anyway. And then along came COVID, just as the balls were getting rolling.  Virtual programming was certainly a different way to spend Pride, but at least there was something, to keep Edmonton Pride going, uninterrupted, during a pandemic.

Now here we are, two weeks away from Pride Month 2022. This year marks forty years since 1982’s Pride Through Unity, where multiple groups and businesses came together to put on Edmonton’s first pride festival weekend, in response to the 1981 raid on the Pisces Spa. (Yes, even Edmonton’s Pride can tie its origins to protest against police action).  New groups like Capital Pride and Edmonton Pride Association have formed to fill the void left by EPFS, and part of this involves that return to Churchill Square we had been working on in 2020.  2019’s events had left me pretty emotionally broken, and all I wanted was to see other groups pick up the baton and run with it; that’s now happening, and now my challenge is just not letting my own pride stand in the way of enjoying the bigger Pride. Over forty events are being planned for this June, and myself and Evolution are helping enhance and elevate as many of those events as we can. 

But in 2022, what makes me proudest is my new position with Explore Edmonton, bringing an increased LGBTQ2 presence to K-days this summer. My Pride journey has taken me from a little gay boy desperate to be included, to someone at the heart of things, trying his best to include and involve everyone he can. And damn – that is something to take pride in.

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