Our Proud Winnipeg Hearts

June 16th, 2009 by Aaron

As far as weather goes, Sunday, June 14th was an amazing day to celebrate the annual Winnipeg Pride Day Festival. If you were here in Winnipeg (i.e. not at “the lake” or “the cottage”) you already know it was sunny and hot; what could be considered our first truly summer-y day of the year. Foolishly I left the house in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, but I’ll tell myself it was to preserve this soon-to-be-28-year-old skin from the elements. Too bad my nose is still pink today.

Laurel and I introduced a visiting friend from Nanaimo, BC, to the exciting world of Sunday morning breakfast at the Don Restaurant in downtown Winnipeg. Located on the ground level at 120 Donald Street, this joint is always busy and yet we still usually have our pick of table. The crowd tends to be eclectic and includes everyone from young hipsters to young families, mature couples and singletons. We definitely started our morning off right with a pre-Pride breakfast that included frequent coffee refills and pleasant conversation with our friendly server.

Following our meal, Laurel and I dropped our visiting friend off at church before heading to Memorial Park to meet up with the crew from the Rainbow Harmony Project (RHP), Winnipeg’s only Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Two-Spirit (and their allies) choir. Since mid-April I have been the choir’s administrative assistant, and the welcoming spirit of each choir member – as well as the entire Board of Directors – has made me feel like I’ve always been part of the gang. My experience working with the RHP (although it has only been two months) reminds me that contributing to a cause that’s larger than me is the best way to make a difference first in our community, and then the rest of society.

The RHP booth at the Lambda Business Fair and Market was looking great, and after saying hello to everyone, Laurel and I headed toward the Legislature grounds for the Pride Rally. The RHP kicked off the rally in harmonious style and I must say their singing is a lovely tradition that I hope continues for years to come. A moving speech outlining the unbelievable sacrifices made during the Stonewall Riots (1969) followed the Rainbow Harmony Project performance. To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (June 28th, 2009), a local Winnipeg lawyer gave the onlookers a much needed history lesson on the gay rights movement in North America.

Despite the fact that Laurel had to leave following the pride rally, she and I had some time to discuss how our first Pride Festival in Winnipeg compares to others we’ve attended. In Vancouver, the Pride Festival (and especially the Pride Parade) literally overtakes the West End. Although there are a lot of gay people living in downtown Vancouver and the West End, Pride is a time of the year enjoyed by everyone. It may sound clichéd, but it’s true. I have attended much smaller Pride celebrations in both Calgary and Victoria (BC), and my conclusion is that Pride in Winnipeg falls somewhere in-between the large scale events of Vancouver, and the quaint “togetherness” of Calgary or Victoria. Not yet a huge corporate venture, and not quite “your mother’s” Pride celebration.

There was an announcement during the Pride Rally that next year events will kick-off at The Forks. After inquiring throughout the day I learned this was a “big announcement” for the 2009 Pride Committee, and I have to wonder: why the secrecy? What will change once Pride is moved to The Forks in 2010? Is this a political/economic move driven by the capitalist interests of vendors at The Forks, or does this move actually make sense logistically? Will it be easier to direct traffic into and out of The Forks as compared to the effective stoppage of traffic along Portage, Main, and Broadway during the parade? What will be the parade route for 2010, and won’t The Forks be a little crowded with thousands of Pride attendees PLUS the regular amount of shopping and tourism that can be expected on a Sunday in June? Do you know something I don’t? Please share your information and insight!

With pride,

A side-note about the Rainbow Harmony Project (@RainbowHarmony):
Although this will seem like a shameless plug, that’s okay. In 2010 the Rainbow Harmony Project will invite hundreds of members of North America’s GLBTT community to Winnipeg! Our humble choir is hosting the fourth Canadian Unison Festival; a celebration of GLBTT persons and their allies through voice, song, and companionship. Following in the footsteps of Edmonton (1998), Toronto (2002), and most recently Vancouver (2006), we hope to generate a lot of buzz about this exciting, affirming, and utterly amazing event. For more information please visit the official Unison 2010 website, or follow the updates on twitter: @UnisonFestival.

Also…a note from Emma! Despite the fact that she’s in Washington, DC for a work-related conference (and what we hope will be at least a little pleasure), she was disappointed not to join me and Laurel for Pride in the ‘Peg. It turns out, however, that she had her own Pride adventure in DC! Here’s an excerpt from her email to me on Sunday, June 14th:

“Oh! I wanted to text you last night (but didn’t because roaming texts are 60 cents apiece!) – On our way to the restaurant, we got caught in Gay Pride!! Had no idea it was this weekend – so, we’re Pridin’ it up, too! It’s so cute – it’s called Capital Pride. Almost didn’t make it to the restaurant because we had to get across the parade…but we finally did. It was a happy surprise. If you ever get a chance to do Capital Pride (maybe combined with a trip to New York?) you should. It’s hot here and the mood is very festive.”

-Thanks for the update, Ems! Capital Pride in Washington, DC

4 Responses to “Our Proud Winnipeg Hearts”

  1. mrchristian says:

    Good to hear that our Pride Festival is up to scratch !

    We’ve come a long way as a city in a pretty short time. I still remember the hullaballoo about even raising the Pride flag at city hall – that only died down a few years back.

    Moving to the Forks is a good thing for messaging. Hosting the event at the province’s oldest meeting place, not to mention top draw for locals and tourists alike, is great.

    Message aside,like any event that moves to a bigger venue and gets hooked on corporate support, I imagine that there may be a watering down of things (consciously or subconsciously). Sort of like the difference between going to a céilí at the Irish Club vs going to the Irish Folklorama Pavilion in a school gym.

    Still, using the Irish analogy, if you can host a bigger event to give people an in-person look at who you are and what you’re all about (rather than letting the media define it) you can have a great time and still céilí to your heart’s content !

  2. Dave Shorr says:

    I think the reason that “The Forks” announcement is so significant is that the parade is going to be organized in concert with The Forks, integrated with activities on site and with full blessing from the administration. The Forks has been a veritable Winnipeg institution since its opening in the early 90’s and I have a hard time believing this would have been accomplished then. The fact that a gay pride parade is going to begin at The Forks, long to be considered the preeminent “Family Friendly” site in Winnipeg is a great accomplishment and should be a point of pride for all involved. Kudos in my books.

  3. Anon says:

    I’d guess that the move to The Forks will allow the Pride events to tie into the Cdn Museum for Human Rights.

  4. Aaron says:

    You’re right ANON, that’s a very good point I overlooked. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be opening sometime in the future, and many people do find equality rights for the GLBTT community to be a matter of basic human rights.

    You’re right Dave…there is significance in the fact that 10 or 20 years ago an event like Gay Pride wouldn’t have been accepted somewhere like The Forks. I’m not sure I would agree that it’s an accomplishment, however. I wonder if you can define what is being accomplished: acceptance from the non-GLBTT community? Inclusion for GLBTT people within the scope of what’s considered “Family Friendly”? I find that’s resigning to the dominance of what is prescribed by the non-GLBTT population of our society. As though, once The Forks administration thinks Pride is “okay” then Pride has been truly accepted in Winnipeg? There are also elements of gay pride celebration that aren’t exactly “family friendly” (by its narrowest definition) such as topless women, sexually suggestive costuming, go-go dancing in minimal clothing, etc. I would be comfortable taking MY kids to an event like this, but where will The Forks draw the line, I wonder. Will there be complaints? Will there be rules and restrictions in place for Pride marchers, participants, and float designers? These are all questions that are quite interesting, and I am curious about what’s to come.

    Mr.Christian, I love what you had to say about letting Pride participants define themselves in front of their spectators at The Forks, rather than what is typical of “letting the media define it” through words, images, and video that is cleverly edited for effect. This is a perspective I hadn’t considered before now. Thank you for your responses, everyone. And thanks for continuing to read the blog! 🙂

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