One of the biggest parties of the year is about to get an international boost as WorldPride comes to Toronto June 20 to 29.
This is the first time the event will be hosted in North America. WorldPride was awarded to Toronto in 2009 after the city outbid Stockholm.
Executive director of World Pride Kevin Beaulieu says being the first North American city to host the international event is a great honour for the city.
“It’s momentous. We’ve been building this for many, many years – first by building a successful Pride in Toronto and then in the past five years, planning to host the world,” he explained. “It’s a chance for us to welcome the LGBT communities and our allies from around the world and at the same time showcase some of the talent and arts and culture that happens here in Toronto.”
The theme this year is Rise Up.
“Rise up – that’s what we’ve been doing for so long,” Beaulieu said. “It’s how we built this movement and that’s how we’re going to continue to build this movement.”
To accommodate the numerous events planned for WorldPride, the festival has expanded to 10 action-packed days and will include, for the first time, opening and closing ceremonies.
Beaulieu says almost two-million people are expected to take in the events, doubling last year’s attendance, and that the economic impact of WorldPride is expected to surpass last year’s three-day total of $286-million dollars. Beaulieu wouldn’t speculate how much money WorldPride would bring into the city this year.
The opening ceremony will take place at Nathan Phillips Square and include a fireworks display, rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker and a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which took place on June 28, 1969 – considered to be the event that kicked off the gay-rights movement. The event ends with a free concert by Melissa Ethridge, Steve Grand and Deborah Cox.
“There’s going to be local talent and a lot of world class talent from all over the world,” said Cox, who has been a part of Pride events for over a decade – including performing at WorldPride in London. “Celebrating all of the people who have had to undergo a lot of scrutiny by coming out…This is a real big human rights celebratory occasion. It being here in the city that I grew up in… it’s really special.”
Other artists expected to perform during WorldPride: Carol Pope; The Clicks; Estelle; Against Me; Parachute Club; Peaches; Fefe Dobson and k.d. Lang.
LGBT events will also be held at venues around the city including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Royal Ontario Museum, Harbourfront Centre as well as the Toronto Public Libraries.
“Museums, theatres, galleries — they’re all going to be programming for the LGBT communities to help welcome the world when they join us for, what is going to be, an incredible celebration of global LGBT human rights over the course of 10 days,” said Beaulieu.
And for the first time, Pride will host a three-day human rights conference at the University of Toronto. The conference, which will be held from June 2 5 to 27, will be a gathering of activists, artists, educators, journalists, policymakers, students, and others to create a global dialogue about LGBT human rights around the world.
Of course what would Pride in Toronto be without the parade, which takes over Yonge Street on June 29 at 1 p.m. and will include a parade of nations. The Grand Marshall for the parade will be Toronto’s Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, who has been a longtime activist for human rights and performed the first ever same sex marriage in 2001.
Over the final weekend of WorldPride, party goers can make their way over to the Church and Wellesley area for the annual streetfair where they can enjoy music, food, dancing, shopping and take in some of the area’s distinctive culture.
For families who want to take a little time away from the busy crowds, the Church Street Junior Public School will be home to Family Pride.
“Over 6,000 children and their families came to our Family Pride event last year. Everybody is welcome,” said Beaulieu. “As long as you can come out and show support and demonstrate support for our communities and celebrate with us you’re welcome to attend and we hope you will!”
The kid-friendly zone will host activities and entertainment geared to kids and families.
The closing ceremony will take place at Yonge-Dundas Square on June 29 and feature performances by Tegan and Sara, Rich Aucoin, Hunter Valentine, Robin S and Cece Peniston. The Parade Awards will also take place that day before World Pride is officially handed over to Madrid which host the event in 2017.
For a complete listing of events taking place during World Pride click here.