From coast to coast six festivals you can’t miss

 I propose a trip. Pride season in Canada. A coast-to-coast adventure that will put you at the center of Canada’s best Pride festivals. Francophone fun, cowboy culture, maritime madness and so much more. You’ll never see Canada the same way again.

Here are six “can’t-miss” Canadian Pride festivals.

Edmonton Pride

When: June 5 to June 14

We start out in Western Canada and in what’s largely considered the country’s most conservative province – Alberta. Not to worry, however, because Edmonton has had plenty of time to get used to Pride, as the city’s first celebrations took place in 1980. This year’s parade is on June 6.

This upcoming Pride marks a return to the festival’s roots. It will move from the city’s downtown to Whyte Avenue indefinitely, this being where the festival started 35 years ago.

If you’re wondering, you’ll hardly be the only out-of-towner attending. Last year close to 20 per cent of those surveyed indicated they travelled more than 31 miles to attend.

Edmonton Pride is a great opportunity to take in Canadian musical, dancing and performance arts acts, as festival organizers are committed to only hiring Canadian artists. The festival hosts nearly 50 events and welcomes over 35,000 visitors.

It’s the perfect little warm up for the next stop – Toronto Pride.

Toronto Pride

When: June 19 to June 28

Last year the eyes of the world were on Toronto as it hosted the first World Pride in North America. Over two million people attended and the resulting economic impact totaled $719 million (CAD). By comparison, in 2013 Toronto Pride saw crowds of over 1.2 million people and brought in $286 million. This year’s parade is on June 28.

Toronto Pride has taken place in various forms since the ‘70s. As an annual event it began in 1981. Toronto’s first Pride Committee came about in 1986 and City Council proclaimed Pride Day for the first time in 1991, with momentum building tremendously ever since. In 2001, Canada’s largest national newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that the parade had become "a Canadian institution."

Besides the parade, highlights include the Dyke March, the Trans Pride March and Blockorama, an event that celebrates black queer and trans pride. Big name musical acts, performance arts shows and outdoor dance parties have also come to define Toronto Pride.

If there’s one Canadian Pride festival you have to attend, it’s Toronto Pride.

Halifax Pride

When: July 16 to July 26

Next we travel east to Atlantic Canada and, more precisely, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax Pride is the biggest festival of its kind in the region. This year’s parade is on July 25.

Over 120,000 people attend Halifax Pride every summer. It’s quite the bump up from the original 75 or so folks who attended the city’s first Pride march in 1987. Then, the march was a protest over a lack of legal protection from discrimination and the real threat of homophobic violence. A handful of participants even wore paper bags over their heads out of fear. Now, the festival is a celebration.

Last year’s parade was the biggest yet, taking over an hour to finish and including more than 100 floats.

Highlights this year are the “Dykes vs. Divas” softball game and the “Queer Acts Theatre” performances. In addition to the summer festivities, Halifax Pride also hosts three fundraising events – the Fancy Gay Dress Party in April, the OutBid Auction in May and OutWining in June.

Don’t get too settled – you’re about to trek all the way across the country to Vancouver!

Vancouver Pride

When: July 25 to August 2

We’re upping the ante again with a much bigger Pride celebration in Vancouver. If you’re staying until the end of Halifax Pride, don’t be too concerned about the dates – while Vancouver Pride’s “Run & Walk” and “Picnic in the Park” events happen on July 25, this year’s parade is only on August 2.

The first Vancouver Pride parade took place in 1978 and today the festival boasts crowds of more than 650,000 people. With those numbers, it’s no surprise that the City of Vancouver granted official civic status to the Pride Parade in 2013.

There are about 150 parade entries, including floats, marching groups, costumed dancers and more. It’s a spectacle that runs along a three-hour route, culminating in a finish at the Sunset Beach Festival site. The beach festival brings you live music, an awesome beer garden and a Pride Market featuring over 100 local vendors and community organizations.

Vancouver Pride is taking on a particularly political tone this year. The 2015 parade theme and campaign will raise awareness and promote equal rights for transgender and gender-variant individuals.

So come on out and show your support.

Montréal Pride/Fierté Montreal

When: August 10 to August 16

It’s time for festival fun en français. No, you don’t actually have to brush up on your French – most Montrealers speak English as well. Last year, approximately 300,000 people participated in Pride festivities, making it the most successful to date. This year’s parade is on August 16.

The history behind Montréal Pride is long and complicated. Some consider 1979 the year the first official Pride occurred, as this was when a group of about 50 people came together to commemorate New York City's 1969 Stonewall Riots. Still others claim it was only in 1984 that the first truly organized parade took place. After there was no parade in 1992, the Divers/Cité parade formed. Pride happened under this banner until 2006, after which Célébrations LGBTA Montréal took over. This is why under the Montréal Pride name, 2015 is only the 9th edition of the event.

Whatever anniversary you celebrate, a fun time is guaranteed. Last year’s Pride featured more than 80 shows and the parade itself had about 2,000 marchers, 100 groups and 15 floats.

Now it’s time to say “au revoir” to Montreal and “bonjour” to Ottawa.

Ottawa Pride/Capital Pride

When: August 14 to August 23

What a fitting end to your trip – Pride in the nation’s capital. Again, don’t mind the dates too much. Ottawa is a short distance away from Montreal and you’ll have more than enough time to make it there for Pride weekend. This year’s parade is on August 23.

Capital Pride drew in an estimated 110,000 people last year, its most successful turnout ever. Over 2,000 individuals took part in the parade, which has traditionally been the largest in Ottawa.

The first Ottawa Pride was not a parade, but a picnic held in 1986 that about 50 people attended. It was only in 1989 that Ottawa held its first Pride parade. It grew fast, with the number of participants jumping from 300 in 1989 to 30,000 in 1998.

To the surprise of many, however, Capital Pride declared bankruptcy in late December. A new advisory committee has been set up for this year’s festival and the Bank St. Business Improvement Area (which operates in the city’s gay village) will manage its finances. This means 2015 is a transition year that will largely determine the future of Ottawa’s Pride festival.

But for you, it’ll be all about the fun, fun, fun!

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So there you have it, Pride Canuck-style. Consider yourself officially invited for some good ol’ gay Canadian entertainment.


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