Issue 08, Volume 85
Aug. 8, 2012
Windsor Pride moves to include all on its 20th anniversary
This August, Windsor LGBTQ supporters are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, and the Windsor Pride Community organization aims to represent diversity beyond just the festival week.
“Windsor has a really strong commitment to the LGBTQ community, and we have support from our residents and community,” said David Lenz, president of Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, who wants to see Pride further reach out to the general community.
The festival, founded in 1992 as a small event on Wyandotte Street East, served to recognize the LGBTQ community in Windsor-Essex. Due to a lack of funding and community involvement, the event was cancelled in 2004, but came back the following year.
Lenz took over as the sponsorship chair in 2005 to help rebuild the festival. “We brought it to Charles Clarke Square (downtown), and then slowly, we gained sponsorship recognition.”
In 2007, the festival moved to its current home at the Riverfront Festival Plaza. “It gives us more exposure; especially from across the river. And with Caesars [Windsor] there, it’s more of a prominent location,” said Lenz.
Windsor-Essex Pride Fest and Windsor Pride Community used to be one and the same, but the festival branched out by incorporating as a separate organization last year. The festival was recently awarded a $125,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to expand its reach.
“There wasn’t enough focus on each of the aspects [Windsor Pride Community and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest]. The programs and services are very important and then the festival requires a lot of work which takes a good eight months to plan and to get all the things in place,” Lenz explained.
“We still are partner organizations,” said Lenz, adding, “We just run specific things; our own budgets and things like that.”
Rita Ossington, executive director of the Canada South Festival Network, said branching out allows each pride component to focus on its own priorities. “One is about festivals and the other is about programming. I think it will help
the festival grow and gain popularity because their focus will be on festival growth.”
“I think that it is so important that pride celebrations be inclusive,” said R. Kelly Clipperton, the lead of Windsor Pride four-time performers Kelly and the Kellygirls. “In large cities, like Toronto, the whole city comes out to be a part of it, but in smaller cities the queer community and the friends of the queer community come to those events, but I think that people outside of those groups think that they are not allowed to go,” they explained. “I would love to be part of changing that; to show up and reach out to different demographics and say, ‘Everyone is welcome, it’s a party, celebrate, be happy, be thrilled that we’re in Canada in 2012 in this amazing country. ‘ It needs to be for everyone.”
Lenz stated that at first it was a little difficult for people to understand the split because the two organizations have similar names, but people caught on. “Our sponsors love it, because there are sponsors who like the big numbers, and there are sponsors who like supporting community agencies.”
In Lenz’s eyes, the Windsor community has been great as far as reception to the
organization. “We want them to be more involved. This is our way of getting them there and letting them see that we’re just like regular people, we’re not different.”
“Our specific objectives,” explained Lenz, “are to enhance the festival to a more prominent status [and to] increase visitation through tourism.”
Pride Fest reaches beyond Windsor by advertising to tourists in markets that include Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. “We travelled to Chicago, Columbus, Ohio,
Motor City Pride in Michigan, Toronto and London pride. We’re travelling around and actually promoting our festival…. working with Tourism Windsor-Essex [Pelee Island] and Travel Gay Canada,” Lenz said.
“We’re the only festival that actually travels out of town to promote our event, instead of just buying an ad here or there. We’re actually physically there, promoting the area.”
Ossington explained that Pride Fest is like the other festivals in the region, in that it “rounds out representation of all people.”
“It’s about inclusivity,” she commented. “It’s one of the fun summer festivals, it adds to our plethora of activities throughout the year.”
There are a number of events taking place this month in celebration of pride in Windsor-Essex. The pre-Pride Fest Spritz Boat Cruise took place July 28, attracting 143 people, up from 80 last year.
On Aug. 9, Pride Fest invites the community to take part in Pride Family Bowling at Rose Bowl at 7 p.m. Attendees will be able to play two free games of bowling and partake in door prizes and auction items.
A flag raising at Windsor City Hall is the official kick-off for the pride weekend, typically held on the Friday morning.
Friday Night Out, Pride Fest’s musical evening, will feature performances by local artists Jody Raffoul, The Blue Stones and the Unquiet Dead, and will serve to raise money for Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation.
Family Fun Day takes place on the Saturday of Pride Fest and is hosted by Family Service Windsor Essex. The free event runs from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and features inflatable rides and a musical tribute show featuring songs by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
On Sunday, the Pride Fest Parade takes place at II a.m. traversing a route along Ouellette Avenue to the Riverfront Festival Plaza. The parade features 34 floats, bands and a ‘Man and Woman of the Year’ presentation to recognize four people that have made a great contribution to the LGBTQ community over the past four years.
The day will also feature 33 vendors and performances by Bigg Wiggle, Kelly & the Kelly Girls and Toronto’s drag queen extraordinaire: Miss Conception.
Windsor Pride Fest conducted a survey to determine what people wanted in the 2012 festival. “We’re all about listening to the general community to see what
they want to see. We’re not just going to make the decision on our own; we’re
going to take input from everyone.”
“If you compare it to any other city,” said Lenz. “I think we’re more prominent than London, obviously not Toronto, but hopefully maybe down the road we’ll get there.”
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.
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