Come out and celebrate Pride Month!

Image of Ray Lam
Image of Ray Lam

Vancouver Pride Society plans big changes for pride events

By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor

The Vancouver Pride Parade is consistently one of the city’s biggest summer events. Now in its 35th year, the parade has officially become a civic event, receiving a significantly improved budget and being recognized as a popular draw for the city. But who are the people behind the parade, and a number of Vancouver’s other pride events? General Manager Ray Lam, now in his ninth year with the Vancouver Pride Society, fills us in one some of this year’s events and what’s planned for the 2013 Vancouver Pride Parade, happening August 4 following July, or “Pride Month.”

“When I first got involved,” Lam starts, “our parade [reach] was 125,000 people, and last year it was estimated at over 650,000 people, so it’s been a pretty huge growth since then. It was also two events before, now we have 18 official events and an entire month of pride.”

Some of these events include Pride Night at the Whitecaps (July 6), Gay Day at Playland (July 13), Pride Run and Walk (July 27), and several special movie nights. This year, Lam explains his team has also found ways to make the festival events more affordable for patrons, with permanent pricing changes.

“We’ve made a move to have as many low cost events as possible,” Lam continues. “There are a couple events that we do annually that we can’t do that for, like the Davie Street Party (August 2)… and the Gay Day at Playland. So what we’ve done… is create a free festival zone… so for Davie Street, this year instead of having four fenced-in ticketed blocks, we’ve reduced it to two [blocks], and in the third block we’re having a free community festival, and it’s going to be all ages. With Gay Day, we moved the Gay Day festival site just 15 metres outside of the Playland gates now onto the off-season PNE grounds, so that means that the festival—the beer gardens, the games, the performances, the drag show—all of it is a free area now, so if you want to come out to just celebrate pride and you don’t want to go on any of the rides… you can come in for free.”

Lam also explained that events will happen “year-round,” with an upcoming gala dinner occurring later this fall. The gala will also serve as a fundraiser for smaller, non-profit pride-related organizations in Vancouver such as the Trans March and Dyke March. In addition, more events will occur that are inclusive for sober and younger pride members, such as Clean, Sober, and Proud and the Pride Youth Dance (both on August 4).

Then there’s the largest announcement in regards to the 2013 Vancouver Pride Parade: several grand marshals will be leading the march, all of whom represent people and places where pride still struggles to be accepted, even in Canada.

“We have the mom’s of PFLAG Vancouver…to celebrate their contribution to Vancouver and their history and commitment to…creating something special. The three mom’s, Susan Harman, Karin Lind, and Aideen McKenna, that we’re specifically honouring are members of the PFLAG Vancouver board that have served for 10 years, and they’ve done a lot of great work in the community.

“Then we also have Brandon Timmerman…who started a pride in Brockville, Ontario, which is a small town…surrounded by military towns. He was 15 years old when he founded that pride…and then the following year, City Hall actually unanimously designated it Pride Week. This is their third year, and now they have places in the downtown core putting up rainbow flags on their doors and it’s just turned into a really big, civic celebration now.

“And we also have Zdravko Cimbaljevic from [the country of] Montenegro. When he came out a couple years ago and founded the LGBT Forum Progress, local media all recognized him as the first publically-out gay man in Montenegro, which is kind of mind-blowing, even now. I think it’s like four or five years later, he’s still recognized as the only publically-out gay man in Montenegro.”

The purpose of bringing these five people together is to show how there is still progress to be made.

“This is our 35th anniversary,” Lam reflects, “and we wanted to show people that we in Vancouver are celebrating the oldest Pride in the country, but we have to recognize that not all countries and not all cities are as fortunate as we are. Montenegro is a great example, and so is Brockville… it also shows you that it’s not just international. Yes, we have equal marriage in Canada…but that doesn’t mean that it’s translated to smaller cities and rural communities throughout the country. Abbotsford just celebrated their first Pride Parade, that was met with heavy protest, so there’s still a lot of work to be done and that’s kind of what we’re trying to highlight with this year’s parade.”

Amongst other big changes to this year’s parade, accessibility areas for senior patrons have been expanded so that they can enjoy the parade without exhaustion. There will be a musical occurring at this year’s parade, emphasizing a focus on local arts and culture. Perhaps the biggest change of all though is that Shaw and Outlook TV will be streaming the parade live online for all to see, and will be broadcasting footage of the event throughout the rest of the summer in order to widen the parade and festival’s reach.