If advanced ticket sales are any indication, this year’s Okanagan Pride Festival could attract its biggest crowd to date.
Wilbur Turner, president of the Okanagan Pride Society and festival co-chairman, said advanced sales for the festival’s ticketed events, such as the Viva Las Pride wine event and the Taste The Rainbow dance, have been strong.
Turner says the number of people who have turned out for the festival’s free events, such as the Festival In The Park and the annual Pride March have been growing over the last few years.
“Last year we had an estimated 1,500 people turn out over the course of the week. This year, I expect we will surpass that number,” he said.
Wilbur said the annual festival—which is held one week after Vancouver’s large Pride event—attracts a lot of out-of-town visitors, not just from the Lower Mainland but also from other parts of B.C., Alberta and even Washington State.
He said in addition to the this year’s festival, the Okanagan has so much to offer visitors and that makes this area a popular choice for summer tourists.
“We like to call it Pride tourism,” said Turner.
This year, for the first time, the society received a $2,500 grant from Tourism Kelonwa to help it advertise the festival.
It also received a grant from the city and funding from both the Toronto Dominion and HSBC banks.
The society has had a television ad promoting the festival running on OUT-TV, a cable station aimed at the gay, lesbian and transgendered community.
Last weekend in Vancouver, members of the Okanagan Pride Society marched in that event’s huge parade and had a booth at the festival that attracted more than 1,000 people interested in the upcoming Pride festival here.
Turner said he was very pleased with the response in Vancouver and hopes to see that level of interest reflected over the next week.
And, as in recent years, Kelowna city hall is back on board as a supporter of the Pride festival.
Last week, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray once again signed a civic proclamation announcing Aug. 11-17 as Pride Week in the city.
While the festival will technically kick off Aug. 10 with the opening of a queer art exhibition at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art downtown and a trans-denominational spiritual service at the Unitarian Hall on Bertram Street on Sunday afternoon, the main festival events will not take place until next weekend.
They will include the first pairing of an Okanagan Wine Festivals event with Okanagan Pride, Viva Las Pride, on Aug. 16 at the Laurel downtown, the second annual drag competition on Aug. 16 at Kelonwa’s Actors studio, the Taste The Rainbow dance on Aug, 17 at LeVel nightclub on Leon Avenue featuring headline performer Willam.
The annual Pride March will go Aug. 17 from Stuart Park to City Park starting at 11 a.m., followed by the free Festival In The Park featuring headline entertainer Chris Salvatore as well as the popular Pooches on Parade dog show and competition, a barbecue, kids events, music and other entertainment and a beer garden.
The parade will feature a mob when it enters City Park and it will open the Festival In The Park.
For more information about the Pride festival events, times dates and where to buy tickets, go to Okanaganpride.com.
Turner added that while one of the hottest topics of conversation in the gay, lesbian and transgendered community currently is the situation in Russia, where anti-gay laws have been introduced ahead of that country’s hosting of the 2014 winter Olympics, there will be no official protest as part of this year’s Okangan Pride event.
But he said it will be talked about, and plans to address it in his remarks at the opening of official opening of the festival.
“But we’re a celebration, not a protest,” he said.