Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Post-World Pride analysis: Ambitious Toronto organizers overwhelmed by World Pride beast...

The massive party of World Pride in Toronto is over. 

The unabashed winners from World Pride were private businesses like bars, hotels, restaurants and other establishments which got a major boost to their profits.  Most establishments properly prepared for the expected big spike in usual Pride Toronto attendance numbers and managed appropriately, I'd say. 

But not Pride Toronto and its organizers, ambitious from the start to host this allegedly prestigious event, but clearly overwhelmed by the beast they unleashed on the city.  It was like they still planned for a regular Pride event and then seemed shocked when chaos erupted at many of their events. 

The annual Green Space Starry Night event at the 519 Community Centre was overwhelmed early with many 519 contributors with VIP passes turned away (although this was largely due to the limitations of the space, although I'm sure a bit of better planning might've prevented some disappointment.) 

But the biggest fiasco was the annual Sunday parade, which Pride organizers failed miserably to properly stage.  No doubt, Pride Toronto was more than happy to accept hundreds more parade marchers and floats than ever before, all paying big fees and filling Pride coffers.  I chose to march with my union, the Canadian Media Guild, which hasn't marched in years. 

But the massive delays in staging and getting the parade rolling were embarrassing.  The 1 pm start time was more aspirational than planned.  Volunteers giving their time to march ended up standing around the staging area on Bloor Street between Church and Jarvis in the hot, muggy sun for hours.  Several volunteers with my group couldn't bear the heat and left before we even started moving at 3:45 pm.

But our group didn't even have the worst of it.  The Liberal Party contingent with out lesbian Premier Kathleen Wynne was forced to wait even longer, as one friend of mine noted to me on Facebook: "...We were near the end of the Parade behind the naked guys??? No Mayor thx jeez but the Premier of Ontario 4.5 hr wait. We finished at 6:15 most of crowd gone home!!! Loved WorldPride disappointed in parade."

Before we started moving, I took to Twitter to voice my displeasure with the chaos: "Standing in the heat waiting to march in TO ‪#‎WorldPride‬ parade for 2 hours. Worst organizing by @PrideToronto ever!"
I got some sympathy from friends in response, but World Pride Human Rights Conference organizer Doug Kerr arrogantly shot back: "Pride can't control the crowds or weather!"  I promptly gave Kerr's dismissive quip the response he deserved by deleting it from my Facebook timeline.  Note to Doug: When people are feeling pain due to your organization's mismanagement, don't rudely dismiss them!

The crowds on the street delaying the parade from running on time?  Don't think so.  As we marched down Yonge around 4:30 pm, there were times there were 4 or 5 blocks of empty road behind us.  This was Pride Toronto's big goof, so best not to blame the people who came to see the parade for the chaos, I'd say. 

The most galling part was standing in the staging area between Church and Jarvis on Bloor watching corporate float after corporate float go ahead of the community groups like ours.  In years past, corporate floats have waited while smaller community groups went first.   But that old tradition seems long gone.  Now the Premier of Ontario has to wait so Trojan's float can go first.   Perhaps the massively delayed organization of the parade will give birth to a new money-making opportunity for Pride Toronto in years to come: pay an even bigger parade fee and your corporate float can be in the first contingent of the parade!  

Many LGBT people including myself have become quite cynical about Pride in recent years as it's morphed from a grassroots community celebration about liberation into a largely corporate beast.   Most Pride events nowadays have VIP sections for the well-to-do who've paid premium ticket prices.  This is not the Pride of old.  Hence, why many like me believe that Pride has lost most of its old magic.  It didn't just happen this year; it happened long ago.   This was just the biggest example of what Pride Toronto has become.  

When asked in the months and weeks before if I was excited about World Pride, I could only shrug and respond, "Not really."   I didn't know what World Pride was supposed to mean.  And I still don't.  I'm happy for the businesses that did so well this weekend.  It was a decent Pride weekend.  I loved the time I spent with my boyfriend and my friends.  My brother and sister-in-law came in from out of town to walk with us in the parade and show their support which was fantastic (and endured the painful wait with us.) 

But we'll definitely think again before we put ourselves through another Pride parade, either as participants or viewers. 

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