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Monday, June 23, 2014

Pride's New Beginning

Pride became the hottest topic in the two months leading up to the annual event.  When is it going to take place?  Why did it move?  What about the block party?  etc., etc., etc. 

More room to roam this Pride
It’s not that these aren’t legitimate questions.  They are.  Pride has been growing for years and more of the community has either participated in the festivities or are at least aware of Pride.  Much of the uncertainty for this year’s edition can be attributed to the GLCCB, who has run Pride for over 35 years, for being slow out of the gate in disseminating the information that would have quelled most of the questions and suspicion. 
However, logistical issues, such as delays in permit requests and other requirements that are not visible to the general public but are essential in carrying out this large enterprise, prevented an early release of the information. It wasn’t that they were deliberately trying to perpetuate a mystique.

One of the complaints raised had to do with the move to the Artscape area from the familiar Eager and Charles locale that had been the venue for the block party for over a decade.  This was not a result of some sinister plan; it was out of necessity, and it wasn’t a last minute decision either as some suspect.   
Former executive director Matt Thorn announced to the GLCCB Advisory Committee last July—merely a month removed from the 2013 Pride—that the Center was considering a move to the Mount Royal area where Artscape takes place.  Therefore, the move had been contemplated for quite a while.

Recall just days before Pride last year the controversy led by the City Café’s concerns regarding underage drinking and sanitation issues at the block party.  The GLCCB complied with the request or demand depending on how you look at it that the block party would begin at Morton and Eager—a block away from the City Café—restricting the celebration to an even smaller area.  No doubt, the resulting brouhaha propelled the Center’s leadership to consider alternative sites.
Of course, the rumblings about the move to Mount Royal followed.  “It lacked the celebratory nature we’re accustomed to,” said one.  “It was too organized,” said several.  Those who like to consume a lot of alcohol and act “trashy,” as one put it, objected to the new venue.  Though alcoholic drinks could be purchased at two beer gardens, customers were confined to the fenced-in areas.  Some said they would never participate again; others said that they didn’t attend this year because of the changes. 

What’s being overlooked here are the countless members of the community who avoided past Prides because of the mayhem at the block party and who favor the change.  The previous block party site was simply too crowded.  Vendors lined up on both sides of Eager St. narrowing the street further.  Some folks plunked down lawn chairs on the sidewalk that impeded the flow of foot traffic even more. 
I was bothered, as were so many others, that navigating through the block party in the past was nearly impossible.  Few places to sit and little shade available made the experience worse.

Thus, you can count me in as one of those who were happy about the move.  Am I completely satisfied about this year’s Pride?  No, but I give the Center high marks for attempting to run a major event for the first time in a new space.
With some tweaks to improve the operation, Pride should be enjoyable for years to come.  I do say, however, that the second day should have remained at Druid Hill Park.  It was a good location to enjoy the laid back essence of the day, relax and have a good time.  As a contrast to the frenetic block party, it attracted more families to the event as well.

Having both days’ celebrations at the same place should be reconsidered.  It was essentially more of the same on both days with some minor changes, yet an argument could be made that people who could not attend on one day could do so on the other.  You can also argue for a single one-day celebration if the park is not an option. 
Asking less affluent LGBT groups or non-profits to pay higher fees for a space and requiring a two-day commitment if they choose to participate was ill-advised. The vendor roster became too commercialized, too corporate and priced out these smaller yet valuable organizations.

The beer gardens should have tables and chairs as most similar set-ups do.  Standing around in a pen drinking looks like people standing around in a pen drinking.  Better access to the beer garden near the Main Stage is desirable, so the hillside, which was packed on Saturday, needs a pathway to the beer garden site.
Also, more security—either by the GLCCB or the police—is needed towards the end of the Saturday event to discourage scuffles at closing time.  It’s a wider perimeter to protect at this new site.

I am certain there are other areas of improvement, but these come to mind.  I give the GLCCB kudos for its overall administration of this year’s Pride and its desire to keep it fun and manageable.  This organization is comprised mostly of volunteers so cut them a little slack. 
They had to endure a move to a new headquarters and a change in the executive director position all during the months leading up to Pride.  They still carried it off and needed to since this is the GLCCB’s most significant fundraiser each year.  To its credit, the Center will welcome community input on this past event and plan for next year’s during town hall meetings to be scheduled in July. 

The operation of Pride will never reach a full consensus throughout our communities.  But the move is a good beginning to build on.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve for pointing out such a fair and truthful take on the weekend. I was one that saw these changes as a negative for many of the reason you listed. I have to say once I attended the event and let go of past pride comparisons I was able to find some silver linings to the weekend. I think every change and suggestion you brought to light could make the changes to pride not just a better event but possibly a NEW Pride for years to come.

David S. Kaplan said...

Great post, Steve. I think you really covered the main shortcomings and the possible approaches to address them in future years.