Then and Now – Vancouver Pride from 1973 to Today

Vancouver Pride Parade 2015 2

By Angus Praught

Pride season is upon us, and what is now a full-city of rainbow-coloured events and celebrations, began as a much smaller event over four decades ago. Many agree it all began in 1973, with a picnic and art exhibit in Ceperley Park, near second beach in Stanley Park, as a part of the first national celebrations of Pride Week taking place across Canada in major centres at the time.

Vancouver’s first documented Pride Parade took place five years later in 1978 as a very modest affair. At that historic time, a relatively small contingent marched on only one side of the street, through Vancouver’s West End, from Nelson Park to Alexandra Park, via Pacific and Beach Avenues.

Early Pride Parade | image by Alexander Park

Early Pride Parade | image by Alexander Park

Vancouver Pride Parade 2015

The early first few years saw the Vancouver Pride Parade grow to what was then an impressive 30,000 participants. Fast forward a few decades to 2016, and the Vancouver Pride Society is celebrating its 38th annual Pride Parade and Pride Festival at Sunset Beach, with an estimated crowd of hundreds of thousands of participants. Vancouver is now recognized as one of the largest Pride celebrations in North America, and I think, having been to many, it is one of the best in the world.

The 2016 Pride theme is “better together” and intertwined with all the glitz and glam are core values that do not forget the politics and protests at the heart of Pride. An example of this commitment to the core values is that it is now mandatory that all parade entrants sign the Trans Equality Pledge. The annual Vancouver Trans March is also now an official VPS event, taking place on Friday, July 29th in 2016.

Early Pride Rally | image by Alexander Park

Early Pride Rally | image by Alexander Park

Pride Festival 5

The annual Pride Run/Walk and Picnic kicks off the 2016 Pride Week festivities on Sunday, July 24th, with an entourage of colourfully costumed participants traversing 5.5 km of magnificent waterfront in the morning, culminating in an exciting afternoon of fun, games and beer gardens at Sunset Beach.

For the past several years, Pride Week has begun with the Pride Proclamation and Flag Raising Ceremony at Vancouver City Hall, hosted by our handsome mayor, Gregor Robertson, but this year will take place on Monday, July 25th at the brand new Jim Deva Plaza in Davie Village (named for the well-known Vancouver LGBTQ+ activist) for the first time.

Freshly painted rainbow crosswalks

Davie Street explodes with excitement and revelry on Friday, July 29th with three blocks of Davie Village blocked off to traffic, as the official Davie Street Party kick-starts Pride Weekend with a bang. Live bands, world-class DJs, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, drag queens galore, and an open three-block beer garden are just some of the highlights of this spectacular soiree. Walking distance or a short taxi ride to all major downtown hotels, this is the not-to-be-missed partay of the year!

Scores of Pride-related parties are also on the calendar, with all major bars and nightclubs hosting nightly events, featuring a wide range of visiting DJs, dancing boys, dancing girls, and more. Sunny patios in the Village will be bursting to capacity, and the non-stop catwalk on Davie will be a sight to be seen.

Specialty event planners will be hosting an amazing array of soon to be sold-out, one-of-a-kind events, with everything from levi/leather/bear extravaganzas, glitzy dance parties, choice of fabulous party cruises, to Hershe Bar- Where Girls Are!

Fireworks and Aqua Bus

Throw a world-class fireworks competition into the middle of Pride Weekend; why not? What about the hundreds of thousands of people estimated to pack the West End, on Saturday evening for fireworks and on Sunday morning for the Pride Parade? No worries; Vancouver’s been doing it for years! This year’s Honda Celebration of Light Saturday night show will feature the United States, represented by the Walt Disney Company; pretty exciting stuff!

As Pride week fast approaches, the rainbow crosswalks in Davie Village are freshly painted, the 2.3 million dollar Jim Deva Plaza is about to be unveiled, costume designers are working at a frenzied pace, and it’s time to grab some of the hottest tickets on the planet!

Happy Pride Vancouver!

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