Have you ever considered a bilingual Pride? While it’s not exactly as sexy as it sounds, the idea’s still pretty damn enticing. Neighbors to the north Montreal have definitely got it going on.
“We try to have a little something for everybody,” said Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, vice president of Montreal Pride/Fierté Montréal.
With a lengthy program lineup that’s on from Aug. 8 to the 14 and an expected attendance of about 500,000 people this year, it’s hard to believe that just a few years back Pride in Montreal was fighting for its very existence.
The festival has only existed in its current form since 2007. Before that, Divers/Cité had been organizing Pride in the city, as it had since 1993. After Divers/Cité made it known they wanted to become an LGBT music festival instead, Montreal Pride’s current president, Éric Pineault, consulted the community about whether or not they still felt a need for Pride celebrations.
“The community was so afraid that Pride would be lost,” recalls Boudreault.
Suffice it to say, the community responded with a resounding “yes” and immediately got to work to ensure 2007 did not go by without celebrations. They set up a non-profit organization in May and Pride followed that very July.
“From then we built on the success and the relationship we have with the community,” Boudreault said. “I think we succeeded because from 70,000 people, a $135,000 [CAD] budget, we are this year close to a $3 million budget and close to somewhere around half a million people.”
So what can you look forward to this year? Boudreault told SFGN the standout events are happening on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Pride.
On Thursday night, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” cast members Violet Chachki, Pearl, Katya, Alaska, Willam, Phi Phi O’Hara and Manila Luzon will entertain the masses in an outdoor show co-hosted by Bianca Del Rio.
Friday night is all about The Diva Den event. Big name Quebec talent will perform, as well as singers from elsewhere in Canada, the United States and Europe.
Saturday night is a mixed bag of treats with the B.Y.O.L. (Bring your Own Lesbian) party back for the ladies and 15 of Montreal’s best drag queens hitting the stage for Illusion. In an exchange program of sorts, the city will also host performers who entertained audiences at Toronto Pride just a few weeks before. For your information, Montreal Pride also let Toronto ‘borrow’ their talent.
And while we’re not endorsing missing the parade on Sunday, the Mega T-Dance starts at the same time. But it continues for hours afterwards, so you can certainly make it to both events. The Mega T-Dance will feature “several internationally renowned DJs” who will cap their sets just before midnight. You can then just stay right where you are to see Canadian drag superstar Jade London close up Pride.
“Nowhere else in the francophone world is there a festival or a Pride that lasts seven days like we do,” said Boudreault, who likes to remind people that Pride in Montreal bests any in France.
Believe it or not, Montreal Pride was only a three-day event in 2007. In 2017, it’ll expand even further to a 10-day festival in celebration of Canada Pride.
If that sounds unfamiliar, it’s because Montreal was awarded the first ever Canada Pride, to take place from Aug. 11 to 20, 2017, in 2015 after the organizations that make up Fierté Canada Pride voted unanimously to give the city the event. The celebrations coincide with Montreal’s 375th anniversary as a city and the 150th anniversary of Canada as a nation.
“We came together and we thought, ‘Why not?’ Canada is the second biggest country in the world. We’re bigger than Europe. So why not do something like they do in Euro Pride or World Pride and do a bigger event that could go around Canada.”
Organizers expect Canada Pride to attract between 700,000 and 800,000 visitors to the city. The event will rotate host cities every four years.
“We’re looking to have big, big names to do something huge for Canada,” Boudreault said.
“We want to build something strong to have a strong legacy for the next city.”