This article was published on September 4th, 2013
This past weekend was Calgary Pride. While Pride events, festivals and parades are usually very exciting, for a city with over a million people, the Pride weekend was less that impressive.
Last year the Friday night events included both an official Pride Calgary event, plus events hosted by promoters. This year Pride Calgary opted not to host their event, and bill the other third-party events all as official events. While promoted as Pride Calgary events, really they were the same old events that happened in the past only they received official recognition. Big deal.
There were no major official events on Saturday; however, Pure Pride Calgary was also sanctioned as an official event, despite being an event completely run by a promoter. While this event is the largest night party of the weekend, the promoter fills the night with way too many acts that by the time a crowd starts to get into dancing it’s quickly over because of another performance. The event also has way too many VIP tickets sold, where over 1/3 of the people attending are huddled upstairs on a balcony wanting to feel exclusive (how can you feel exclusive when everyone and their dog is on the same balcony), and the dance floor is left half empty. Many people commented throughout the night that it seemed more like a party for the promoter than for the attendees.
Sunday was the big parade. Calgary Pride needs to be commended for their organization and execution. The 45-minute parade was on time and offered a wide variety of entries from local organizations to corporations. While Shell, RBC, TD Bank, Virgin Radio, and other major corporate partners were in the parade, WestJet, who’s headquarters are located in Calgary was notably missing (they have had a presence in the Vancouver Pride parade for the last two years). In the true spirit of celebrating pride, diversity, and equality, there were many advocacy groups that participated in the parade. It was also noted that many notable local advocates and allies of the LGBT community, including political and media personalities were in the parade. While more pride parades in North America start at either 10 or 11am, Calgary’s starts at noon, which makes way more sense. The streets this year were notably quieter this year, with less people in attendance watching the parade. The parade also had great support from many youth, families and allies of the LGBT community. It’s also very notable that this is an incredibly family-friendly pride event, with little or no half-naked men and women, which tend to detract from family and ally attendance.
Following the parade was the wrap-up festival in Shaw Millennium Park, located at the end of the parade route. Thousands came to hear Calgary’s mayor and Premier Redford speak, and for the afternoon DJ’s and entertainers performing on the main stage. Topping off the event, which supersedes even Vancouver Prides event, was the large beer gardens overlooking the festival grounds. It was incredibly well attended. There was a large police presence at the events, and they took a friendly, active role in their duty of engaging with festivalgoers, ensuring everyone had a great time.
Calgary Pride isn’t large enough in numbers of people or quality of events to put it on the map as a destination pride event. It’s just not big enough and doesn’t have the excitement behind it to make it desirable for out-of-town guests. However, for anyone living within a two-hour drive of Calgary and are looking to celebrate Pride, it’s a fantastic event and well worth the trip.