'Pride cannot be cancelled': Events fill gap left by demise of Edmonton Pride parade

Despite the cancellation of the Pride parade the LGBTQ2 community and their allies have worked to ensure the Pride festival still goes on this June.

Edmonton Pride Festival Society board of directors voted to cancel pride festival last month

Thousands attended the 2018 Edmonton Pride Parade along Whyte Avenue. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Although the 2019 Edmonton Pride Festival was cancelled by the festival society's board of directors last month, the show must go on and so will Pride in Edmonton. 

Though the parade and several events associated with Pride may not be happening this year, there are plenty of other Pride events put on by LGBTQ organizations that will still take place in June. 

Rob Browatzke, part of the owner-management team at Evolution Wonderlounge said there will be lots of ways to celebrate Pride in the city next month. 

"Pride cannot be cancelled," Browatzke said. "The Pride festival is still happening. City hall is still raising the Pride flag for the week. We still have 10 days full of events."

Evolution Wonderlounge, billed as the only club serving Edmonton's LGBTQ2 community, had a slate of events already planned for the 10-day festival, which runs from June 7 to June 17. Those events are still happening, with or without the parade, Browatzke said. 

Among the events is a street festival happening on June 8 on 103rd Street. Browatzke says over the past two years, the festival has raised money for a number of different organizations.

"It had always been kind of a supplemental complementary event to the events on Whyte," Browatzke said. "[As well as] an opportunity for some other LGBTQ groups in the city to make some money on the day of the parade."

A woman dances in Edmonton's 2017 Pride parade. (Gaetan Lamarre/CBC)

He said ticket sales in the past have raised $30,000 over the last two years all of which went to groups that supplied volunteers to run the event including HIV Edmonton and Shades of Colour.

When the cancellation news broke, Browatzke hoped they would be able to expand the street festival to accommodate more community groups and people. He said the city was willing to work with them.

"They obviously want to see something still happen for a festival," Browatzke said. "So they've let us expand out of our normal area rather significantly, which has enabled us to expand the beer gardens area and then add an all-ages family area on the north side of 103rd Street."

Corporate sponsors have also stepped in to cover the additional costs related to expanding the festival, said Browatzke who expects to see up to 5,000 attendees compared to about 1,000 in previous years.

Browatzke has also taken over the creation of the Pride Guide, the official information booklet that will list all of scheduled events and festivities. It to be published in late May or early June.

The festival society's cancellation of events prompted LGBTQ groups in the city to have conversations that will benefit the community in the future, he said.

"My hope has always been that, even though this year there might be a little bit of disarray and confusion, the conversations that come out of what has happened this year will result in a stronger and more inclusive Pride festival for everybody in 2020." Browatzke said.

In 2016, then-premier Rachel Notley marched in the Edmonton Pride Parade with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Justin Trudeau/Twitter )

Communities around Edmonton have also planned Pride-related events including St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County, which will be hosting its first-ever Pride Week.

In addition to the Evolution Wonderlounge events, the Pure Pride group will be hosting a Pride March on June 8 and an Edmonton Stonewall 50th Anniversary Rally, partially organized by Shades of Colour and RARICAnow, will be held on June 28 at the Alberta Legislature.