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2021 Pride Festival brings colour and representation to Calgary

The 31st annual Calgary Pride Festival created early buzz online when a Pride Flag and Transgender Flag were seen being painted on the sidewalk surrounding Central Memorial Park. 

A partnership between Shaw and Calgary Pride led to the colourful sidewalk, setting the stage for the 2021 festival, that will be a blend of online and in-person events so Calgarians can choose to participate in whatever way feels comfortable for them.

“We wanted to make sure that we created something that still had magic and glitter, but still goes back to the roots of the movement,” Hasina Juma, Director of Organizational Change at Calgary Pride, said.

Central Memorial Park is significant for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In 1991, the very first Pride Parade ended at the park, making it a pinnacle piece in Pride history.

“There were no laws around same sex marriage and things like that, it was a very different time,” Juma said.

“Now, to come back to the same place and have crosswalks that are painted, that are inclusive and where people can come and see themselves represented … [that] actually help people feel part of a community is quite remarkable, and it is quite a powerful way to affect change.”

On Aug. 20, Shaw will be doing the grand unveiling of the newly activated space. Although details on the project have not yet been revealed, many Calgarians are supportive and excited about the sidewalks new inclusive nature.

“I think it’s great, it looks amazing and it’s nice that it is inclusive,” Lisa Korolyk, a resident living in the area, said.

“It brightens it up and I think it brings that kind of community feel.”

Lisa Korolyk walks her dog through the park daily and enjoys the newly painted sidewalks. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

It’s a visual display of the fact 2SLGBTQ+ people exist, but it also transforms a grey sidewalk into a colourful area for everyone to enjoy, even if you aren’t aware of what it represents, said Tristan Dell, who goes downtown frequently.

“Honestly it fills my heart with warmth and it makes me believe that we can make a better society for ourselves by all sticking together,” Dell said.

What to expect: Calgary Pride

The festival runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 6, which will include five drive-in movie nights that will be held in the TELUS Spark parking lot.

As part of the online component, Calgary Pride will host Real Life Rainbow Royalty. It’s an intimate conversation with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla, India – the world’s first openly gay Prince.

As a Canadian-born citizen, I’m told I can love whoever I want. However, my religious and ethnic community have a different belief system and a different set of values, creating real complex challenges for not only 2SLGBTQ+ people, but the community as a whole, Juma said.

Those differences in values are exactly what Prince Gohil will be addressing, having lived the experience and can bring a lens of compassion, Juma said.

“2SLGBTQ+ folks sometimes feel like they’re not seen, they’re not heard, they’re not supported. And then on the other side, you have family members and extended family members and members of community who aren’t really in the know about the need to have these difficult conversations,” Juma said.

“[It’s] not really talked about, but needs to be talked about.”

Free to attend Calgary Pride events

Official Calgary Pride events will be free to attend, or by donation. Some in-person events may require pre-registration to allow for proper social distancing in an effort to keep attendees as safe as possible.

Last year, the festival was strictly online, which Calgary Pride saw an increase in people attending the digital events.

“We found out that, while we were able to reach a larger audience and we were able to reach people, even outside of Calgary,” Juma said.

“Not everyone is comfortable coming to an in-person festival. If you have people who for example are having to share their sexual orientation or gender identity with others, it’s really sometimes uncomfortable for those people to actually come to an in-person festival.”

Calgary Pride also created an app in 2020. Attendees could view the different events and curate their own schedule. This will continue in 2021 to get Calgarians the most up-to-date information.

The sidewalks surrounding the park now feature two Transgender Flags and two 2SLGBTQ+ Flags. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Partnering up for Pride

Calgary Pride has partnered with businesses to help celebrate Pride in the community, hosting events or selling products or services.

In exchange for the money raised going to Calgary Pride, they provide training for businesses and their staff. They are focused on service standards and how the business can cater to the 2SLGBTQ+ community in a way that is inclusive and makes sense for the specific business, Juma said.

One of those businesses is Sweetsmith Candy Co., which is releasing a limited-edition Pride rainbow sprinkles cocoa bark.

The bar is going to be a colourful brand new flavour, with interesting and unique elements and textures. It includes pop rocks and a base of white chocolate, Kendal Russell, part of the Sweetsmith Candy Co. marketing and sales team, said.

“It’s going to be available online only, and it will be very limited quantities. I’m not sure how limited yet, but I know it’s probably going to be under 100 that are available.”

“The main reason we wanted to do it this way is because this is a very big cause, and we want to become a safe space business for the LGBTQ+ community. Our focus was not on making sales, but on bringing awareness to the cause.”

While the official launch date has not been decided, the bar will be available with a rainbow Sweetsmith logo T-shirt and the Calgary Pride logo embroidered on the sleeve.