As this year’s Pride Board sets up for Winnipeg’s milestone event, it is faced with a similar conundrum Winnipeg is facing itself. How big are we? Is Pride Winnipeg a ‘big’ city event and if so, how big an event should we be? How do we manage the growth of the last two years? Pride is not a progressively developed event in the way other city festivals – Fringe Fest, Folk Fest, Jazz Fest, grew in the last decade. Perhaps because all these events charge admission, while Pride has not implemented fees to be part of the celebration. But don’t worry, Pride is not going there in 2012.
In 2009, the Forks Corporation invited Pride (then known as the Winnipeg Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival Inc.) to celebrate Pride Day 2010 at the Forks. This was huge! It gave Pride Winnipeg ‘big’ event status and even though it broke routine in several ways, it was exciting and justifying to celebrate at the Forks – the meeting place of all Winnipeggers and a space to morph into a ‘bigger’ city event.
Until 2009, Pride followed a routine pattern, with the Parade starting at the Legislative grounds, following the rectangle around downtown, and ending at Memorial Park. The stage, business tent and toilets were all in the usual place. Pride knows Winnipeggers like consistency and routine. Participants knew where to park and where to find their friends, just as they had every year. As a committee, Pride had the planning down, and Pride was an annual good time.
Prior to 2010, the only real source of income for Pride was the dance party. The Rendez-Vous, in particular and arguably the most memorable of Pride events, was the pinnacle money source for Pride for many years. Until 2010, the dance party’s profits were unknown until the last moment of the final event. Hopefully, they would cover the year’s expenses, and just maybe, some extra to start the next year. Noteworthy, to the common question – Why is the Pride party on Sunday? Answer: Pride always supported the opportunity for the bars to profit from one of the biggest nights of the year, Pride Saturday. Out of respect for their financial stability, Pride holds the dance party on Sunday night, to close out Pride week. You already know the date for 2012: June 3 – if you need to, book Monday off now.
Clearly, one of the challenges brought by the growth of Pride is financial. Financial backing is definitely not a given and requires negotiation and relationship building, a special talent, from a special kind of volunteer. Pride is benefiting from sponsors who have embraced us, not just as a market, but as true proponents of diversity changes for safe workplaces and dedicated supporters of the queer community.
The operating budget from 2009, approximately $10000, grew to approximately $100000 in 2010. A 1000% increase. In 2010, Pride stepped out of the uncertain money shadow of the dance party and discovered sponsorship, supporting big name talent on the Forks Stage. It also brought income from the long awaited beer tent and the introduction of Queer Beer, made by Winnipeg’s own Half Pints Brewery. In 2011, in preparation for our 25th Pride, spending was cut back but still produced one of the biggest and best Pride Days ever.
To date, Pride has not received money from any level of government, although it is a prime desire of future funding and a strong indication of societal support. Locally, working relationships and contributions from city departments and council are essential to plan the mass movement of Parade participants through downtown Winnipeg, crossing major routes safely into the Forks. To benefit from all levels of government resources, Pride needs grant writing expertise and approved accounting and auditing practices.
But money for Pride is not the greatest challenge.
The biggest challenge of rapid growth for Pride is Human Resources. Pride’s organizational chart requires professionals – graphic designers, communication experts, financial gurus, and marketing specialists to operate effectively. Lawyers, accountants and business people are keys to accommodating expansion and ensure the wellness and future of Pride. Many people bring their talents as committed volunteers. And, we need volunteers on other levels. Pride Guide distribution, hospitality, tourism coordinators are needed to ensure the important details come together during Pride week. On Pride Day, the volunteer core of parade marshals, ground crews and beer tent servers, all led by an exceptional Volunteer Director are essential for a safe and fun experience.
‘Big’ city Pride is possible in Winnipeg. One day we may graduate to having an Executive Director and every year Pride’s direction will progress with new ideas and opportunities. For now, volunteers are the primary component in the production of ‘big’ city Pride and they are truly great people.
It’s a great year! This is the 25th year of our Winnipeg queer history, and most importantly, Pride honours the contributors of our past achievements while continuing progress in human rights for all. Get involved and share in the incredible excitement and ownership of bringing the biggest gathering of queer and diverse people between Vancouver and Toronto to our city – The Pride of the Prairies.
(Originally published in Outwords Magazine – October Issue)