Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31, 2011 - St. John's Pride Inc. - Pride Week Report

Well, it was simply an exhausting but amazing week here in St. John's. There was quite a bit of controversy and conflict among the local LGBT community, when steps were taken by myself and others to incorporate an entity known as St. John's Pride Inc., that would take over the role of overseeing the planning, management, and delivery of a Pride Week in this city, but things ended up coming together rather nicely.

The phone was literally ringing off the hook in the weeks leading up to July 18-24, as many different entities wanted to get involved and become a part of the celebration.  Public stakeholder consultation sessions were called and attracted more people than any other Pride meeting that i can ever remember in this city. Members of the media who were LGBT were not only anxious to cover the stories, but become a part of the organization, which made media engagement , both before and during Pride Week, much easier.  Organizations such as Yuk Yuks Comedy, Provincial Department of Tourism Culture and Recreation, and Americal Apparel, were willing to bend over backward to be involved.

Our week started with a busy slate of events, including a noon hour flag raising, and an evening reception, at city hall.  These events were very well attended, and featured more LGBT speakers than ever before. The decision to make the evening reception a 'dry' event, caused a little bit of controversy, but proved to be the right move, as there was no underaged drinking, nor public intoxication, of attendees. The event was also as well-attended as in previous years.  This step also proved helpful in getting people out of City Hall on time and over to Chatters Cafe and The Grapevine, where further social events occured. 

Tuesday featured another busy schedule.  The day started with an afternoon Open House at the Aids Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, an organization that provides a variety of services, including aids education and awareness, needle exchange program, and mens shelter.  Then it was off to the township of Logy Bay Middle Cove and Outer Cove for an historic flag raising event. This was perhaps the first time a small township has ever raised a rainbow flag in honour of Pride week.  Then it was off to Middle Cove beach for a bonfire, which was very well attended, despite threats of rain.

Thursday started with the debut of a Pride self-defense class, which was delivered by one of the most recognized and credible martial arts teacher in the province.  Then it was a quick turn over to get ready for a panel discussion on health care issues facing the LGBT community. This was recorded by Rogers television in its entirty for future airing. Excellent speeches were given by reps from Canadian Blood Services, Aids Committee of NL, Canadian Mental Health Association, Moncton Transgender Support Group, East Coast Trans Alliance, and Holy Trinity High School Gay/Straight Alliance.

The evening carried on over at Yuk Yuks for a night of comedy from nationally-respected gay comic Richard Ryder, and local comic and singers Mark Day (from Canadian Idol fame), and Doris Anita Douche (Drag Idol).

A movie night on Friday followed - where the Baby Formula was screened.

Saturday kicked off with a photo Scavanger Hunt, which included several enthusiastic teams. A  picnic in the park followed, which was highlighted by Zumba dancers, presented by Pflag Canada. 

Then it was time to get down to business to set up the featured event of the week, the Variety Show at the 1200 seat theatre, Arts and Culture Centre. The dress rehearsal went very well for all attendees. The show got underway at 7 pm and featured emceeing by yours truly, singing from Denielle Hann, plate spinning from Vannie Woodford, drag lip sync from Roxie Cotton, dancing from the Burly Q Babies, improv from the PwG, and a comedy set from headliner Elvira Kurt.

Sunday's rally, drag race, parade, and BBQ went off very well, as all event saw more attendees than ever before. Gemma Hickey, and Federal MP Ryan Cleary spoke, Terry Rielly sang a newly-penned pride song, and Roxie did a great job hosting the drag race, subbing in for Doris.

The parade had a record 343 people and 23 dogs, not including me, who rode in the police escort car. I had to scramble to get more food at the BBQ, as it was attended by 3 times as many people as expected.

In terms of sponsorship, there was a very high level of interest from local businesses, major unions, and national companies.  While donations were small, this was at least a stepping stone to develop strong working relationships. 

In the near future, steps will be taken to build upon the week with public consultation feedback sessions, as well as corporate development projects to attempt to bring more people into the fold.

Anyway, it was an exhausting week but a good week. I would like to publicly thank all volunteers who helped make this week a success: Brandon Jenkins, Sylvia Newhook, Sarah Thompson, Cara Brown, Nathan Barnes, Dan Coombs, Vannie Woodford, Natalie Bambury, Brock Ballard, Lou Power, Pam Sheaves, Josie, and Sarah Downey.

2 - Jennifer speaks at Rally with Terry Rielly and Roxie Cotton looking on
3 - Elvira Kurt, Jennifer McCreath, and Vanessa Woodford pose for a pic at the meet n greet souvineer and autograph table at the Variety Show.
4 - pride parade in progress
5 - Jennifer poses with pro comics Richard Ryder, Mark Day, and Evany Rosen at Yuk Yuks.
6 - Pride Inc Board of Director Sylvia Newhook addresses a crowd at City hall as part of Pride Week's Opening Reception.
1 - photo omitted, in case you are wondering.... lol

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