Organizers blown away by attendance, support
By Manisha Krishnan, Calgary Herald September 1, 2014
MLA Sandra Jansen walks the parade route during the 24th Annual Pride Parade on 8th Avenue in downtown Calgary on Aug. 31, 2014.
Photograph by: Adrian Shellard , Calgary Herald
Gay, straight, young and old, Calgarians of all stripes and colours turned out to support the city’s LGBT community at the 24th annual Calgary Pride Parade.
A crowd of around 50,000 people attended the parade and ensuing festival at Shaw Millenium Park Sunday afternoon, exceeding expectations and previous attendance records.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see that many more people coming out,” said Steven Wright, president of Pride Calgary. “It’s exploded this year, it’s incredible. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
The parade, which kicked off at noon along Stephen Avenue, featured 100 entries, including local businesses, community groups, sports teams, churches and politicians. Floats and costumes ranged from colourful to kinky, with no shortage of rainbow flags in sight.
Wright said in a conservative city like Calgary, it felt good to see not only members of the LGBT community but plenty of straight allies and families.
“I think it’s great they’re coming out and supporting the community and that’s what we want,” he said. “People understand who we are and they see, ‘Oh there’s nothing wrong with this.’”
All three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates showed up, with Jim Prentice marching with the PC Youth of Alberta and Thomas Lukaszuk alongside Camp Fyrefly. Ric McIver did not march but attended after shifting around his schedule last minute, he said. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leadership candidates Rachel Notley and David Eggen were also there.
Minister of Family and Community Safety Sandra Jansen gave a speech that touched on anti-bullying issues.
“I will not rest until every student in this province who wants one gets a (gay-straight alliance) because they save lives,” she said.
But James Demers, a transgendered performer with the Fake Mustache drag kings troupe, pointed out that the gay-straight alliance bill put forth by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr was voted down in legislature.
“I think it’s ironic that there are conservative politicians in the Pride Parade, marching here, that don’t actually support the gay community whatsoever,” he said. “Their practice in legislature doesn’t follow the lip service we get at these events.”
The parade was followed up by song and dance numbers, DJ sets, bouncy castles, food trucks and a beer garden at Shaw Millenium Park. Amanda Bezanson, 32, and her baby girl were two of the many first-timers joining in the festivities.
“I just want to get her saturated in being able to be who you are,” said Bezanson.
Curtis Dell, 39, who was at the parade with his longtime boyfriend, said it was the first year his parents came with him.
“It was pretty cool, I think it’s good for them to see the families and parents with their gay children.”
Longtime Pride-goer 52-year-old David Stewart commended the Calgary event for how far it’s come.
“It’s grown leaps and bounds,” said Stewart. “The thing that impressed me was to see the police presence, it’s triple what it was.”
Andy Buck, LGBTQ liaison officer with the Calgary police, said the larger contingent was to show support to the community as well as gay members in the force.
Wright and several attendees said in the future they’d like to see an even bigger turnout and more corporate support; this year, Shell became the first oil and gas company to sponsor the event.