Pride Winnipeg switches back to original festival dates
Community concerns prompted meetings that ultimately changed board of directors' minds: president
The president of Manitoba's largest Pride celebration says they are switching back to their original festival dates after a backlash from the LGBTQ community about moving the festival to later in the summer.
Pride Winnipeg announced in October that next year's festival would run from July 20 to 29, with the festival at The Forks on July 28 and 29 and the Pride Winnipeg Parade on July 29.
The festival has previously run from late May to early June, but organizers said the change in dates was needed to expand the two-day party at The Forks that caps off the 10-day festival.
Tuesday night, the festival's board of directors set the dates back in that range for 2018, settling on May 25 – June 3.
Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak said organizers heard the community's concerns loud and clear when they first announced the change earlier this year.
The group held a meeting late in November and about 50 people attended to bring forth their concerns, he said.
"There were concerns that it would impact with folks that attend the [Winnipeg] Fringe Festival. One of the more major concerns was that challenges that high school students and [gay-straight alliances] would have in participating in Pride given that it now would fall outside of the school year.
"There was also some concern that the decision was made without any prior community input."
Pride Winnipeg's officers met shortly after, said Niemczak, and made a recommendation to the board to switch the dates back to the end of May through the beginning of June.
The reaction on social media to the switch back was universally positive.
"I'm so glad to hear this," wrote one woman. "I've had the pleasure to walk with dozens and dozens of students from Winnipeg School Division over the past few years. Those groups wouldn't come together without the support of their dedicated teachers but it would be a challenge to make that happen in July!"
"Thank you, I appreciate the time and energy Pride Winnipeg put into resolving the situation," wrote another.
The change for 2018 doesn't mean the festival will permanently be celebrated in June, said Niemczak, but he said any future date changes will be done in consultation with the community, and June will remain the preferred month.
The best site for the festival at the moment is at The Forks, he added, since infrastructure like the ScotiaBank Stage is already in place, saving the festival tens of thousands of dollars, for example.
He said the committee will revisit the dates in June in the hopes of finding a weekend where other festivals at The Forks won't be impacted by Pride Winnipeg's expansion of festivities, or form partnerships with June festivals if possible.
With files from Shane Gibson