More than one million attended the annual PRIDE on Sunday one of North America’s largest gay pride parade and festival. Drag queens, naked bodies, sadomasochistic bikers, lesbians, transsexuals, celebrities and hundreds of thousands of people came out to support one of Toronto’s biggest events of the year. People arrived early in the blazing heat in order to get that perfect spot to see the spectacle.
Some celebrities attend the event including the CBC’s openly gay host of the Mercer Report Rick Mercer walking along side Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, a gay rights advocate came out in memory of his son Brendan.
CBC's Rick Mercer walking along side Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, a gay rights advocate came out in memory of his son Brendan.
Members of Toronto City Council, including Joe Mehvic, long time attendee NDP leader Jack Layton with his wife MP of Trinity Spadina Olivia Chow and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May were also seen again at this year PRIDE festival.
Unfortunately there was one absent individual, who made made local headlines for the entire Pride Week. Mayor Rob Ford a no-showed the event as he said he would spend the time with his family at the cottage up north as part of his tradition of spending the long Canada Day long weekend.
Adrienne Batra, the mayor’s spokesperson, confirmed to CP24 that Ford would remain in Muskoka. Ford will be the first Toronto mayor to miss the pride parade since 1994 when June Rowlands skipped it. Former Mayors Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman also marched in the parade during their tenure and made a statement to the press that Mayor Ford should attend Pride. Former Mayor Art Eggelton how never attended Pride also urged Mayor Ford to attend and said, “ He always regretted never attending Pride during his tenure and never realized how it has grown into such an important event for the city”.
However the biggest surprise politician to attend and what got the most attention was former Toronto Mayor David Miller a frequent Pride support during his time in office. “Happy Pride Toronto” yelled former Mayor Miller in his pink dress shirt soaking wet from the water cannons walking both sides of the streets to shake as many hands of the citizens of Toronto who were so delighted to see him. “ That is a mayor we can count on” and “Why did you leave us as now we have a mayor who doesn’t care “ were some of the comments from the hundreds of people who the Miller spoke with.
Earlier in the week he did come out a close door meeting with side Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke agreeing to at least come to one Pride event this year, however in the end he didn’t and sent one of his councilors John Nunziata in his place to attend a flag raising the week prior.
Many Toronto families attended pride this year to support their families participating and had some stern words for the Mayor Ford. “We have participated in past years but thought this was an essential time to come and support the parade. I think for Ford not to come and support families who’s son’s and daughters have been persecuted is a real let down. So we decided to all come out this year in support of our family on this special day.
Rob Ford’s lack of participation in all of Pride this year offended almost every cultural and LGQT group who each had some creative ways of making their point .Several people were seen wearing paper masks of Rob Ford. Stop Ford’s Cuts” and “Where’s Rob Ford?” One organization stated that “We found Waldo, but where’s Rob Ford?” and two photos of Waldo and Ford accompanied the sign.
One sign read: “FUCK FORD, but not really because were dykes” as the two also gave the finger to the absent Mayor.
There were many different groups and organizations participating in PRIDE this year. From the Toronto Police Services handing out bead necklaces and flags, Toronto Fire Fighters spraying the audience with hoses to cool down the hot crowd. As well as several countries were also represented in the parade such as the South Asian and Asian communities.
The Latin communities float HOLA a crowed favorite was found towards the end of the parade with Latin music and costumes that energized the crowd.
This year the one and only LOLA from Venezuela was on hand to represent the Transsexual Latinos in the parade was also on hand. Her extravagant and elaborate outfits she wears every year attract so much attention and photos from the crowd.
“ For me it’s a double pleasure to know that in mw own city I can show my breast and penis here and express myself wearing spectualr outfits to the delight of the people. In many other places in the world people gays and lesbians and transgender people are
Thrown in jail for doing the same”
This year she choose a much more modest outfit and more practical mode of transport by driving a electric red cart down the long parade while spraying water on people and honking a boat horn to get attention.
“I very happy and love to represent my Latin Community here at PRIDE even though we are only one pueblo whether we are from Peruvian, Uruguayan Colombian, Venezuelan, we are the same shit (Meirda)”
Other Latinos who attended Pride this year were also amazed at how great this festival went off. “Everyone here is so friendly and welcoming and the festival is so well organized”, says Javier. Juan Jose and Javier from Mexico who were both in Toronto on a stop over on their flight back. Even though Pride festival happens in Mexico, they were also surprised by the hundreds of thousands of diverse people who attend pride every year. “To me Toronto is a great city that accepts all different kinds of people from all over the world and this helps them grow in culture and consciousness,” comments Juan Jose.
This years theme at Pride was title "Dream Big" was indeed one of the biggest and longest events pride has put on. The 3 hour long parade, the longest ever it took on record to complete, made its way down Yonge St to the Gay Village on Church where the over one million people took over downtown Toronto .
Story and Photos by Christian Peña