What: Victoria Pride Week
When: Saturday to July 5
Admission: Ranges from free to ticketed events (see victoriapridesociety.org for details/full schedule)
Where: Downtown locations
It’s getting better all the time. So say performers and organizers of Victoria Pride Week, which will host 19 events celebrating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in this city.
Comedian Darcy Michael, who’ll headline Comedy at Pride at Sugar Nightclub on June 30, says as a standup comic he has watched “the heart of the country change” when it comes to gay culture over the past decade.
“I definitely have found over the years [being gay] has become more of a celebration than a hindrance. Because of that freedom we have now, I’m more open and more willing to be riskier with my material,” said the Ladner-based comic.
David Tillson is president of the Victoria Pride Society, the non-profit organization staging Victoria Pride Week on a $100,000 budget. He, too, says society’s attitude to the LGBTQ community has become much more liberal. Victoria’s annual Pride Parade (this year taking place on July 5) is now “definitely a celebration of community rather than a stand against oppression.”
The element of protest in Pride events throughout Canada has softened in recent years, said Victoria Pride publicist Richard Lucas (a.k.a. drag queen Gouda Gabor). This change has been so dramatic, it has sparked some controversy within the national LGBTQ community.
“The Vancouver and Toronto Prides, for example, sometimes get in trouble because they’re not political anymore,” he said.
Victoria’s public support of the LGBTQ community was marked this week by the painting of three rainbow crosswalks at Pandora Avenue and Broad Street. In a statement, Mayor Lisa Helps said: “Taking the lead from Edmonton and Vancouver, the City of Victoria is proud to mark a public space in the civic precinct as a place of pride and welcoming for all.”
Victoria Pride Week will be officially launched Saturday night with CabarGAY, an evening of song, dance, comedy and burlesque at the Belfry Theatre. Gouda Gabor and the Cheesecake Burlesque Revue are the featured acts. Tickets are $20 advance, $30 at the door. This event is followed by an after-party at Paparazzi Nightclub beginning at 11 p.m.
The major free events are:
• Sunday, 1 p.m.— Big Gay Dog Walk on Dallas Road at Cook Street. A parade of costumed dogs, agility displays, music and prizes.
• July 1, Wednesday, noon — Memorial Dragball Game at Victoria West Park. Drag kings and queens play softball. Half-time entertainment. Helps kicks off the event with a 2015 Pride Proclamation.
• July 5, Sunday, noon — The Pride Parade starts at the corner of Government Street and Pandora Avenue, moving south down Government and ending up at MacDonald Park in James Bay. Typically attracting crowds of more than 25,000 people, this year’s event features 100-plus floats and groups representing the LGBTQ community, local businesses, non-profit organizations and others.
In conjunction with the parade, MacDonald Park will host a free Pride Festival with entertainment such as bands, burlesque, drag queens and Mexican folk dancers at a main stage and a beer-garden stage. There will be more than 150 food and craft vendors. This event runs 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Lucas said the Pride Parade and Pride Festival are inclusive and family-friendly.
“There’s dogs with boas and kids with rainbow flags and face-painters. All the bright colours of the pride flag are celebrated,” he said.
Other Victoria Pride events:
• Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., Under the Sun — The Wicked Wenches hit the rooftop of the Strathcona Hotel for volleyball games and music with DJ Yeezy Yee.
• Sunday, 6:45 p.m., Pride Boat Cruise sets sail from Coast Harbourside Marina. Tickets $35 at victoriapridesociety.org. (No sales day of the cruise.)
Monday, June 29, 10 p.m., Karaoke Idol Finale. Paparazzi Nightclub.
• Tuesday, June 30, 8 p.m., Comedy at Pride, Sugar Nightclub, $20 advance, $25 door.
• Wednesday, July 1, 8 p.m., Canada Day Party, Paparazzi Nightclub, $3 door.
• Thursday, July 2, 9 p.m., Country Pride, Velvet Exotic Nightclub, $10 door.
• Friday, July 3, 8 p.m., Wicked Wench Pride Party, The Copper Owl, $10 door.
• Friday, July 3, 10 p.m., Ruff Pride, 10 p.m., Paparazzi Nightclub, $14 advance, $20 door.
• Saturday, July 4, 7 p.m., Pride in the Word, Ambrosia Conference Centre, $10 door.
• Saturday, July 4, 10 p.m., Paparazzi Pride, Paparazzi Nightclub, $10 door.