The Best of the Vancouver Pride Celebration
If you had any doubts about Vancouver's progressive and diversity-friendly attitude, the 2012 Vancouver Pride Parade and celebration will heartily put them to rest. What started as a courageous and peaceful protest in 1978 has become one of the most grandiose, spirited and outspoken celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride anywhere.
More than 650,000 participants from all walks of life turned out last year, and this year is expected to be as big if not bigger. So if you're interested in taking part in Vancouver's most visually exciting and rainbow-bedecked spectacle of the year, plan to make it to this feel-good festival, and read our guide below for enjoying the best of 2012's Vancouver Pride celebration.
Each year, the Vancouver Pride Society selects a theme for the Vancouver Pride celebration. The theme selected for 2009, "Educate, liberate, celebrate," so accurately gets to the heart of the Pride celebration's purpose that it carried through as the theme for 2010 and 2011, as well. Each year, one of the three elements is highlighted. In 2011, the focus was on "Celebrate" and celebrating for those who fought for LGBT rights and for men and women around the world who are still silenced or oppressed.
The days leading up to the parade and festival are packed with fun events that are officially part of the fabulous Pride fun.
Events in previous years have included
East Side Pride - A family-friendly event in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood's Grandview Park. This daytime event in a casual gathering with live music and entertainment, food, local artisans and community groups providing information and services for the LGBT community.
Gay Day at Playland - Discounted admission gives you access to the park's rollercoasters, rides and games, a private beer garden and aforementioned drag entertainment.
Pride Movie Night - The event also features discussions with writers, actors and directors.
Davie Street Pride Party - The street is closed to traffic to make way for unbridled dancing to DJ-spun beats, a rhinestone-studded disco show and other entertainment that gets the party going on the street and propels it into the clubs along David Street late into the evening.
Terry Wallace Breakfast - Honouring one of the founders of Vancouver Pride with an annual pancake breakfast served by community churches on Davie and Thurlow streets.
Naturally, the enthusiasm of Pride runs rampant throughout the city, and unofficial celebrations also take place all over Vancouver. Visit the official Pride website
to learn more about events such as evening cruises, cabaret shows, parties, bbqs, and much more.
The Main Events: The Parade and Festival
Throughout the Vancouver Pride events, there is a sense of excitement and expectation leading up to the granddaddy event of them all: the Pride Parade. The parade route was recently extended to central downtown, beginning on Robson and Thurlow, then continuing through the West End on Denman Street to finish at the Sunset Beach Festival Site.
There are approximately 150 parade entries -- floats, dancers, marching groups and more -- that make for a constant stream of entertainment along the route for about three hours. Prepare to be wowed, shocked and inspired with sights such as four-foot-high headdresses, pink fire engines, more rainbow flags than you can count and signs conveying messages of hope and activism.
The levity is temporarily quieted for the traditional moment of silence, usually at 1pm, as a tribute to predecessors who fought for LGBT equal rights, those who are no longer able to celebrate Pride, and LGBT people around the world who remain in various states of oppression.
The most memorable part of the parade is always the costumes, which are so elaborate and outrageous that they make a feather boa and go-go boots look tame.
Just when you thought the celebration couldn't get any more jubilant, the parade is immediately followed by a giant waterfront bash -- the Sunset Beach Festival. About 125,000 people gather on Sunset Beach to listen to live music, browse vendor booths, kick back in the beer garden, take in sparkling views of English Bay and generally frolic in the festive atmosphere.
Where to find out more:
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Where to get tickets:
Many Pride events are free (including the parade and Sunset Beach Festival). Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium, a famous bookseller in Davie Village specializing in LGBT literature, provides sales for ticketed Pride events.
Where to stay:
Vancouver has plenty of gay-friendly lodging. Search here for TAG-approved (Travel Alternatives Group) hotels that meet gay-friendly standards and criteria.