Twenty-four years ago, 300 people attended the first Capital Pride celebration – a picnic in Strathcona Park – at the end of Laurier Avenue.
While successful for the time, that celebration is a far cry from Capital Pride today, as a record 60,000 people are expected to attend Canada’s fourth largest pride festival (after Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal), stretching 10 days and held in various venues across the downtown core.
“It’s really growing fast,” said Capital Pride chairman Alan Chaffe. “Last year, we had over 55,000. This year, we’re expecting more.”
When visitors come from all over Ottawa and North America, they’ll find more than 40 events when the 2009 edition of Capital Pride begins Friday.
“Our goal was to offer an event for all the people in the GLBTTQ community and their allies,” said Chaffe. “We have many new events this year, as well as returning events.”
The festival kicks off Friday with Walk the Bridge in My Shoes, an event to commemorate the murder of Alain Brosseau 20 years ago, Chaffe said. Organizers expect over 500 people.
“I think it’s important,” he said. “I think it will be well received by the community – it’s a sign that gay bashing will no longer go unreported or unnoticed.”
The official opening party is also held Friday, at the Clarenden Lounge in the ByWard Market.
Other events held throughout the festival include the popular Miss Capital Pride Pageant and on Monday, a human rights vigil, which “focuses on establishing GLBTTQ rights around the world,” as well as the popular flag raising ceremony.
Also back are the Laugh Out Proud event at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club and the Capital Pride Gala.
The 10th edition of the Rainbow Party features New York City deejay Honey Dijon.
The festival culminates in the pride parade, held on Sunday, Aug. 30.
More than 35,000 people are expected to come watch the parade, which includes 75 entries and 1,200 participants, said Chaffe.
The parade starts at the Garden of Provinces and Territories and passes the Supreme Court and Parliament Hill, “all the inspiring institutions that gave us the rights we have today,” Chaffe said.
The parade ends with a fair at Marion Dewar Plaza from 2 to 11 p.m.