Ensuring every voice is heard
Most Edmontonians experience Pride celebrations for exactly one out of every 52 weeks. They enjoy the parade, the beer gardens, the Sunday evening barbeque, and the annual public affirmation of a community that is still underrepresented in an everyday world controlled by our media, government, and culture.
For the people who make the festival happen in Edmonton, Pride is more than just a week-long affair. It takes the board, staff, and volunteers of Edmonton Pride Festival Society (EPFS) the whole year to plan Edmonton’s Pride celebrations.
According to society co-chair Alyssa Demers, “That’s just what it takes to put on the Pride Festival.”
Demers, who has sat on the EPFS board of directors since 2013, says that over the past year, the society has been “really trying to implement more community engagement in our practice.”
In addition to the usual fundraising events, the society has been actively reaching out to various sectors of the LGBTQ+ community for their suggestions on festival programming and direction.
“Within the queer community there are so many different intersections,” Demers says.
With the community engagement mandate comes better representation of people who may be members of several different marginalized groups; Demers specifically identifies people of colour, trans people, and indigenous people as some of those who have historically been left out of Pride celebrations and ignored in portrayals of the queer community.
This year, the society has worked especially close with the Edmonton Pride Centre’s Two Spirit group and Boyd Whiskeyjack, the group’s spokesperson, to put the queer indigenous community at the forefront of the 2017 Pride Festival. The EPFS has also been collaborating with the Canadian Native French Centre. Several different indigenous organizations from in and around Edmonton will be leading the parade, and will play a major role in the opening ceremonies immediately following the parade on Saturday.
Appropriately, the theme for this year’s Pride Festival is “One Pride, Many Voices.”
Celebrations kick off Thursday afternoon with a flag-raising ceremony outside City Hall followed by the Pride Awards at the Radisson Hotel South.
This is the first year the festival will include an all-ages Friday movie night at End of Steel Park. Two Hard Things, Two Soft Things follows a community in Nunavut as it prepares for a Pride celebration and examines the ways in which traditional Inuit models of gender and sexuality have been overwritten by the religious and cultural beliefs of western colonists. Other Friday activities include a youth Art Jam on the main festival grounds, and the Big’Uns exhibit by Dayna Danger at Latitude 53. All events on Friday are free.
The main feature of the festival is, of course, Saturday’s parade, which will be back on Whyte Avenue this year.
“If you want to watch the parade, come early,” Demers says.
Festival goers are encouraged to take public transit to the parade and festival grounds, and the EPFS website also promises ample bicycle parking.
Though Saturday and Sunday are both fully programmed with events ranging from a “Human Library” to a Sunday night barbeque, from beer gardens to a church service, Demers makes particular note of another new addition to Pride, the “chill zone” on the main festival grounds.
“Not everyone likes partying,” Demers says. “Not everyone likes loud music and lots of people.”
Though Demers is proud of the direction Pride is taking, she says it’s important to see the festival as both celebration and protest. This year is the 37th anniversary of Edmonton’s first Pride parade, an event during which, Demers notes, “people were hiding their faces.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Demers says, “but we need to acknowledge folks that are still fighting for equality.”
Fri., June 9 – Sun., June 18
Edmonton Pride Festival