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Where it all began: Pride Calgary

Project pride Calgary originally began back in the 80s where it sprung from a group of individuals who referred to themselves as “The Gay Chamber of Commerce”. This group included: Camp 181, Apollo, the Metropolitan Community Church, Calgary Lesbian and Gay Action Guild and the Rocky Mountain Singers and Gaylines. The first festival commenced alongside the anniversary of the stonewall riots in New York.

The first-ever gay pride festival was small and consisted of some live music, exhibits, a dance and a family picnic. Gradually the pride festival began to grow and expand over the period of a week. Local bars and restaurants began sponsoring the festivities activities, eventually allowing the festival to fund a mystery murder night, along with several concerts.

In 1990, The Calgary Pride project helped to fund the Gay Games in Vancouver. Nancy Miller, a committee member, remembers having a tough time getting people to come to the games. She remembers people being afraid that they would lose their jobs, and be denied essential services if it was found they were gay. School teachers, social workers, and those who worked for the government were especially worried about having their orientation known by their communities.

To counter the issue of low attendance rates at the Gay Games, the Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild used the rally to attract attention from the media. To add to the high spirited-ness of the movement, all participants wore lone ranger masks to disguise their identities.

The kick-off for the first day of the gay pride festival commenced on June 18th, 1990, and people gathered in central memorial park at the Boer war memorial. The decision to host the pride event yielded several complaints to the mayor, while some aldermen also severely felt that the pride event was inappropriate.

The parade itself did not go off without a hitch, the aggressive protesting of anti-gay members of the Christian community resulted in some arrests. The slogan of the Christian protesters was “pray for the city”.

The actions of these Christian protesters prompted the mayor to renounce his decision on the gay pride festivities, ensuring the city that the festival would not commence in the following year. However, in 1992 the Gay and Lesbian community countered this decision by advertising in newspapers, despite the best interests of the mayor.

As a result, the gay pride event became a natural aspect to the backdrop of Calgary culture. In hopes to attract more attention to the pride festival from tourists, the event was moved to September to ensure a better chance of ideal weather conditions.

Over the years Calgary pride has expanded and grown with the help of some other non-profits. The festival remains to be an annual event in Calgary and continues to prosper as Calgary becomes a more multifaceted city.


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