EDvent/ The Pride Parade 2010

Thousands revel in the scorching sun as downtown parade kicks off Edmonton's thriving Pride Week celebrations

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

TO kickoff Edmonton's steadily growing Pride Week (June 11-20), the City shut down several downtown streets yesterday (June 12) to allow for the coinciding Pride Parade. The weather was prime as locals filled a stretch of Jasper Avenue for about an hour to take in the drag queen floats, queers in sequined tighty whities, and leather-bound bears (back off PETA, not that kind of bear!).

This was my inauguration to the (30th) annual Pride Week festivities in Edmonton, so I was at least surprised at how many gay or gay-encouraging locals we have, according to the queen-sized (pun fully intended!) crowd yesterday afternoon. My good friend Amanda suggested I tag along with her to the parade in between errands, and how can you turn down someone so damn pretty?!

The colourful and (mostly) sparkling floats--as well as the cast of Rent--began treading down the avenue at around 1PM, starting at 108th Street and travelling east until gay Edmonton eventually congregated on Sir Winston Churchill Square shortly after.

Never before have I seen so many men dressed up in "women's" clothes, or women sporting "men's" wear, or even folks wearing barely anything at all. But no one was detesting them or the prideful fancies holding up gay-business banners, waving rainbow flags, or blowing kisses from vehicles moving at something like 5km/hr. The throngs of LGBT adored their candour.

It lasted for about 45 minutes, at which time this legion of spectators slowly made their way east, towards the Square, the heat stroking the glittered-up flesh of ladies and gentlemen who prefer ladies and gentlemen, respectively.

I saw one young woman who went completely topless, if not for a couple strips of well-placed tape. I noticed a young man, also topless, showing no shame in his high heels and fish nets. And there were kids, too, getting an early appreciation and a lesson in acceptance with glimpses of same-sex inclination.

The Square was packed with our diverse citizens who came here to celebrate just that, their diversity. Some stereotyped the shit out of the flamboyant outfits, others downplayed their "differences." None, though, had anything to hide (except for nipples, of course!).

Such candid splendour hasn't always been afforded to gay or lesbian Edmontonians, though. It's taken many years and a lot of educating, encouraging, and engaging to get to this point, according to parade participant and former city councillor Michael Phair.

"Certainly, in the first few years, it was a very small group," Phair told the Edmonton Journal. "And it was also in a private location--there wasn't any public advertising for it."

That was some three decades ago, and my have things changed!

Phair, who is on the board of directors for Edmonton's Pride Week Society, continued: "Everybody knows about it across the city and it's part of the fact that gays and lesbians are just more a part of the City of Edmonton and much more visible." Phair himself became the province's first openly-gay politician.

Maybe not everybody knows, but an estimated 10,000 people showed up for the celebrations on Jasper and at Churchill, where we were offered complimentary candy, roses, and cans of Rock Star.

I had to leave shortly after the parade, but the party continued all day long, and the festivities will run right up until Sunday, June 20. But, as this afternoon shindig proved, the celebration goes on all-year long.

For a complete schedule of upcoming Pride Week events click here.

PHOTOS BY JOHN LUCAS (EDMONTON JOURNAL)
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