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Takin' it to the streets

Takin' it to the streets

HAPPY DAY.  Thousands of joyful Ottawa queers and their friends made Sat, Jul 11 a resoundingly successful Pride. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Organizers peg Ottawa's Pride fest at 50,000
A flash storm cleared the sky the day before and a beaming sun buoyed rainbow revelers' spirits at this year's Pride Parade, street festival and town square. No doubt beer gardens and a healthy dose of community spirit also contributed.

Spectators crowded the parade route along Elgin, Wellington and Bank Sts as the entourage showed off their feathers, costumes and leather-chapped behinds. At Gloucester St the parade melted into the street festival and town square.

Although attendance was down slightly from last year - the Pride Committee estimates that 50,000 participated - executive director Robin Duetta says the parade and street festival were tremendous.

"The street festival - the decision to extend it to include the town square and to have the stages in a larger area - proved great. There was more participation this year than in any other," says Duetta. "There were almost double the number of floats from last year. The groups watching were larger. It was just a very fun and festive atmosphere."

Glenn Crawford, who took part in the parade in a stylish "Summer Of 69" theme float assembled by the Pink Triangle Services Generation Q group, gave this year's festival top marks.

"The spirit in the streets is amazing," says Crawford. "You know, there's a lot of talk about why do we continue having a Pride parade because of political things that are waning but I think it's just a great excuse to get together. It's such a great spirit. And, you know, we need more of that in the city."

This is the second year Generation Q has assembled a float. This year it included a vintage 1969 Vista Cruiser. It was the rich associations attached to the summer of 1969 that dictated the theme - it was the so-called summer of love as well as the year of the Stonewall riots that inspired Pride events worldwide.

The float was one of 65 assembled by various community groups, organizations and businesses. Each parade spectator likely picked their own favourite, but Pride volunteer Lindsay Waddell gave her vote to one of several troupes of marchers.

"I liked the ones who were doing the flags, and there were cheerleaders too and they all were synchronized together, that was the best float for me," says Waddell, giving her "first runner-up" award to drag queen Velvet D Landers draped over a limo.

At the corner of Bank and Somerset Sts the traffic lights were changing, but pedestrians weren't paying attention. Partygoers ruled Bank St from Lewis to Gloucester at this year's street festival. Hartman's grocery store was draped in a two-story pride flag, but it was hardly the most colourful thing in sight. The open-air fest attracted a range of people. Handholding hetero couples and straights with strollers were almost as prevalent as shirtless hunks and dyke punks with rainbow tattoos - well, almost.

The mix of people was what most impressed Joey Tanga, a young gay man who says he came to the street festival to party and be with friends on a beautiful summer day.

"The thing I love about this is that it's not just gays and lesbians, you see other couples, that's what I love about it," says Tanga. "Everybody's just coming together - all that cheap, bullshit stuff that people take for granted, you know. It's really good to see."

Kristina Nicolacopoulos couldn't agree more.

"It's a beautiful day, everyone's happy, in good moods and celebrating each other's lifestyles," says Nicolacopoulos. "I'm straight, but all my friends… I love them to death. I come out here every single year. Everyone feels welcome. No one judges you, whether you are straight, bisexual, gay - it's just a good time."

The Pride Town Square was attached to the street festival this year and included tables for a variety of organizations, businesses and service providers. A contingent was on hand from Divers/Cité advertising Montreal's Aug 1 Pride Festival, as well as women's store Venus Envy. Of course, the requisite rainbow-wear was available at several tables, including that of Ottawa's Out Stuff.

Some new additions to the square included an elaborate display of slut wear - with demos and models - from the new Adult Fun Superstore, as well as tasty pride-themed treats from Donna Malin's Montreal-based custom decorating business, Swallow Your Pride.

"People seem to be in a wonderful mood, it's a beautiful day and we're having a lot of fun," says Malin, who was at the festival to get the word out about her business.

Malin says response was wonderful and says that it might have something to do with her company's unique name.

"People love the name, I've gotta say," admits Malin. "People are really getting a kick out of the name and the cookies are really cute, and very delicious."
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