Pride officially on despite mayor’s no-show at city hall event

A vibrant rainbow of colour went up outside city hall yesterday as the City of Toronto officially proclaimed one of the year’s biggest celebrations.

Pride Week, which kicked off on June 24 with events on Church Street, runs until July 3, culminating in Sunday’s Pride Parade.

Francisco Alvarez and Margaret Ngai, Pride Week co-chairs, were joined by councillors Frances Nunziata and Kristyn Wong-Tam at the flag-raising ceremony yesterday. Absent from the event was Mayor Rob Ford, which, said long-time Pride participant Khalid, is disappointing.

“Keep supporting us, because without support from the city pride wouldn’t be such a success,” said Khalid, who declined to provide his last name.

Originally from Lebanon, Khalid said he’s participated in Pride festivities every year for the past 25 years.

“Pride is about being yourself and not having to apologize for it,” he said.

This year is Toronto Pride’s 31st, making it one of the longest-running lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited and transsexual community cultural festivals in the world. The theme in 2011 is “Dream Big”.

“Over the last 31 years, Pride has certainly evolved from being a very grassroots-level gathering to an event that attracts over 1 million people,” Alvarez said. “Like any organization, it’s gone through growing pains in terms of becoming more formalized, like establishing a board of directors, hiring staff and finding corporate sponsorships and government funding.”

This year’s event features a greater focus on supporting local entertainers and more encouragement of visible minorities to play a more prominent role, he said.

Entrepreneurs Steve Brockstein and Kevin Daenzer have gotten into the Pride spirit by selling rainbow bandanas sporting a 2011 Toronto Pride emblem. They’ve been selling well, Daenzer said, adding he’s sold a couple to councillors Adam Vaughan and Wong-Tam.

But Pride isn’t about selling rainbow bandanas, Brockstein said.

“We have close friends that are gay,” he said. “Society is starting to change and be more accepting [but] there’s always going to be prejudices that you’re going to have to fight against.”