Toronto World Pride Preview: 5 Tips for the Ultimate Experience
World Pride Toronto is hedging its bets on success when it joins forces with Pride Toronto on June 20-29, 2014 for what’s expected to be the largest Pride event in North America.
Chrystal Dean, Toronto’s World Pride manager, says Toronto is pumped.
"We’ve got everything in place," she said at her Pride Toronto office in Toronto in late March. "Each day scores of folks call to volunteer or ask to form partnerships. There’ll be representatives visiting from over 60 countries. We’re hosting the first ever human rights conference. Melissa Etheridge is headlining a free concert."
Acrimony, coupled with financial and political chicanery, derailed previous World Pride festivities in Rome, Jerusalem and London. That won’t happen in Toronto, Dean said. And Toronto’s beleaguered Mayor Rob Ford - who refuses to resign even after admitting to smoking crack cocaine - may continue to snub Pride events as he has each year, but he has not prevented Pride Toronto from obtaining all necessary city permits.
Last year’s event drew 1.22 million visitors, according to Pride Toronto’s estimates.
"We expect to double that number this year," declared Ronald Holgerson, president and CEO of Ontario Tourism and Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC), in an interview. "We have left nothing to chance. Working with Tourism Toronto and other city and government agencies, we have successfully promoted World Pride Toronto globally for the last 18 months," Holgerson said.
Toronto’s evangelists include Tourism Toronto’s Christopher Barry, OTMPC’s Holgerson and Deborah Mansillo, and Pride Toronto’s Kevin Beaulieu, among others, who have waved World Pride Toronto banners in far-flung locales in Europe, South America and the States. They’ve passed out T-shirts and tchotchkes at travel industry gatherings. With their World Pride Toronto groove on, they’ve boogied and hobnobbed at other cities’ Pride events.
"Visiting these global destinations has long been part of our strategic mission," Holgerson added. "Our message: Canada is welcoming to all and dedicated to promoting global diversity and human rights."
The 10-day World Pride Toronto promises to be rainbow-spangled and free-wheeling. But before you book passage, consider these recommendations:
Same-sex marriage became legal in all provinces and territories in Canada in 2003. During every Pride Toronto parade a marriage float prominently celebrates this hard won freedom. Onlookers toss handfuls of rice as some lucky couple ties the knot while the float snakes its way down Yonge Street.
This year there are options for couples to get hitched in more picturesque settings.
"We are hosting My Big Fab Gay Garden Wedding, a free mass wedding ceremony open to all love-birds planning to renew their vows or to make their commitment official," said Jenny Rhodenizer, marketing director for the Botanical Garden. The grounds will be abloom with flowers and are open to couples, friends, families and well-wishers. Bring your own photographer. Pre-registration is required; capacity is limited. Oh, and be sure to apply for a marriage license first.
Rainbow High Travel, a World Pride Toronto partner, offers packages for intended couples to board helicopters for ethereally misty trips over Niagara Falls. Bubbly, among other accoutrements, is part of the scenario as you toast your new lives together.
Rainbow High also offers escorted World Pride Toronto tours that include strolls through Toronto’s Church-Wellesley gay village, cocktail receptions and more. Liz Devine, manager, notes that "there is a package designed for women only that includes hotel accommodations, receptions, and an opportunity to join the Dyke March." For more information, visit www.rainbowhighvacations.com.
Five Tips for the Ultimate World Pride Experience
LGBT History Walking Tour
If you’re keen on learning about Toronto’s LGBT roots while supporting the non-profit Heritage Toronto and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, there are tours daily from June 21 to June 26 . The cost is $20 per person.
Second City, the improvisational and sketch comedy troupe will be featuring irreverent skits during World Pride Toronto. Expect to hear at least a half-dozen or more Rob Ford jokes.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto’s oldest resident gay theatre, has its own performing space adjacent to the Pride parade route. Check their site for special performances during Pride Week: www.buddiesinbadtimes.com
And finally, while there will be no shortage of food carts, beer and wine gardens, and al fresco dining during World Pride Toronto week, be sure to check out the Food Fight Trivia Night sponsored by gay-owned Cheesewerks, set for Wednesday, June 25. For a mere $5.00, you get to play the game, sip drinks and, of course, nibble on some Ontario produced cheese. Visit www.cheeseworks.com
Rest Your Weary Head
There are numerous hotels within a stone’s throw of the parade route. Two affordable and comfortable hotels with World Pride packages include Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville, conveniently located above the Toronto subway at Bloor Street, and the Eaton Hotel on Yonge Street. Early registration is advised for both.