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Calgary Pride growing, engaging the community

Calgary Pride is growing.

This year, Calgary Pride executive director Parker Chapple expects 250,000 people to engage with their event this year, running August 23 to Sept. 2.

At the parade alone, Chapple expects 100,000 people. That a far cry more than the sparse crowds lining the route just a decade or so ago.

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“Calgary is the fourth largest (Pride festival) in Canada. But we’re the fastest growing. There’s a couple of different reasons, but definitely one of them is we’re the largest that has capacity to grow,” Chapple said.

Chapple said despite the growth, it’s still critical to step ahead with Calgary Pride festivities – especially worry over what’s next with a change in the Alberta government.

“I think that when legislation changes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the social compass moves,” Chapple said.

“It takes time for that social compass to move.”

Chapple said there are so many area Alberta still needs to see changes in LGBTQ inclusion.

“So Pride events such as ours create an opportunity for both the community to be recognized for their contribution, but to also create opportunities for just the general public to engage with that community to hear more about their lived experiences, their challenges to celebrate their successes, and empower themselves with tools in order to be better,” Chapple said.

Drags Benny 2.0 – Calgary Pride fundraiser

One of the events that drives engagement is the upcoming Drags Benny, presented by Eat North on June 23. It’s a brunch fundraiser for Pride Calgary and their programming.

Angelina Starchild, one of the event performers, first started as a volunteer at the first event in Calgary and then travelled to the one in Edmonton.

“I went up to Edmonton and I did it, I performed there. And it was such a fun, open and creatively-inspired event, I loved being there,” Starchild said.

“Being able to explore your gender identity and being able to look at the different parts of gender and say, ‘I like that, I want to do that, and then looking at other parts… there’s two different spectrums here: The male side and the female side and everything in between.”

Now, Starchild is raring to go for this year’s event – at a time when Calgary’s drag scene is exploding. For Starchild though, it’s important to continue helping given the political climate in Alberta.

“And I think that these kinds of events, especially this one, is a good thing for a lot of people to see that,” Starchild said.

Opportunity for engagement with Calgary

Chapple said more families are attending Calgary Pride events and it’s creating opportunities for engagement with their community. There will be something for everyone this year – including the family-friendly events like Pride in the Park. For the adults there will be a couple liquor-service areas, with one that has a speakeasy vibe, Chapple said.

There will also be workshops, art shows, an intergenerational board game and an instrument petting zoo and more.

“It also provides additional opportunity to highlight queer artists. That artist story is a really important part of our current sort of cultural fabric,” said Chapple.  

And that’s not something that was always readily available to the public, but something that we’re we really focus a lot of our energy and attention on is creating space for those stories of our community in a way that’s really accessible to everybody.”