Pride Winnipeg announced the 2016 festival's theme — Be Authentic — on Thursday.
"It's a message of empowerment in telling folks to be authentic, be them and not worry about social pressures that are trying to conform them into areas that's just not them," said Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak. "We've gained a lot of rights over the years, but there's still a lot of social stigma that we would like to bring some focus to."
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The organization picks a theme based on the issues facing the LGBT community at the time. The 2015 theme was Evolution and focused on the evolution of the LGBT rights movement in Canada. The 2014 theme was Without Borders and focused on assisting people in areas outside of Winnipeg. In line with the theme that year, Pride Winnipeg also helped launch Pride North of 55, a pride festival in Thompson.
Pride Winnipeg also announced Thursday that the 2016 festival at The Forks will be open until 8 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday, two hours later than in the past.
"The festival grows every single year," Niemczak said.
There were 52 floats entered in the parade in 2014. Last year Pride Winnipeg received 80 entries.
"We've never seen numbers like that before," said Niemczak. "It just shows you how much more accepting society is."
The Pride festival started in 1987 with about 250 people marching through Winnipeg, some with paper bags over their head to hide their identity for fear of discrimination, Pride Winnipeg said. At the time, protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation had just been added to the Manitoba Human Rights Code, said Niemczak.
Now tens of thousands of people attend the festival.
"Pride is still about that celebration of rights, but it's also about focusing where we still need to work on — areas such as the trans population and two-spirit population here in Manitoba," he said.
Pride Winnipeg is celebrating the Be Authentic theme on Sunday with a wine and cheese party called Snow Globe Soiree at the Albert Street Cocktail Company.
The Pride Winnipeg Festival runs from May 27 to June 5.