Attila Bassett doesn’t mess around when it comes to his costume for the Victoria Pride Parade.
Last year, it was all pink plumes. This year, it’s a strong royal blue, reaching six metres skyward in a way that would do him proud at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival.
“It took a vehicle to get it here. It’s huge,” said Bassett, spokesman for Paparazzi nightclub, host to a Pride Week Wrap Party on Sunday night.
The Victoria Pride Parade and Festival, beginning Sunday at noon, mark the end of a week of activities that have included art shows, a memorial drag ball game and film screenings.
But while the parade and festival are expected to attract about 15,000 people, it wasn’t too long ago that a small group of gay and lesbian locals organized the first such gathering.
Nicole Naud, a summer practicum student with the Victoria Pride Society, has begun a project collecting local history on the subject. Naud said she has interviewed 13 members of the LGBT community who began organizing in the 1980s, before there was widespread acceptance of sexual or gender diversity.
At that time, the Island Gay Society — a predecessor to the Victoria Pride Society — hosted discussion groups for men wanting to talk about topics such as relationships and sex and the AIDS crisis. Members also organized coffee houses at the Oak Bay Community Centre and the Fernwood Community Centre, so that gays and lesbians could meet and mingle at a venue other than a bar.
“There were five of them who really started it,” Naud said, naming Pat Ford, Colin Craig, Sam Archer, Michael Hallerman and Terry Froud.
Ford and Archer came up with the idea for a pride event similar to those arising in Vancouver and Seattle, she said. A picnic in Beacon Hill Park was organized in 1991.
“When the first picnic came, they were really worried about how the community would respond,” said Naud, who is completing a degree in child and youth care at the University of Victoria.
But 250 people showed up and nothing bad happened — in part because it wasn’t heavily advertised, she said.
“Unless you were part of the clique, you couldn’t really tell what was going on. And they received good feedback from the community,” said Naud, who will have a booth at the festival and invites people to share their experiences with her.
The picnic grew to become a parade in 1994, she said. Since then, it has continued to grow, expanding to include bisexual and gender-variant people.
Today, the parade and festival are about reflecting on how far we’ve come, said Victoria Pride Society spokeswoman Laurissa Chapple.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the rights and freedoms that we have in Canada as part of the LGBT community,” she said.
The pride society has also adopted a new vision this year, with the motto, Be Our Family. “No matter who a person is, the gender in which they identify or the sexual orientation they may have, that person is someone’s family,” Chapple said. “They may not be blood family, they may be chosen family,” but they are all loved.
Pride Parade and Festival
• The parade starts at Pandora Avenue and moves along Government Street to MacDonald Park between noon and 1 p.m.
• The festival will be held in MacDonald Park, with more than 150 vendors, performers, family-friendly entertainment and a beer garden.
• All Pride events are open to everyone. For more information, go to victoriapridesociety.org