Record number comes out for Pride Parade

By Eric Mathison

City hall officially recognized the pride parade for the first time ever by flying the rainbow flag, while thousands made the flag a reality on the streets below. With 400 people walking down 8th Avenue representing 40 entrants, there was no lack of pride among participants and the estimated 4,000 people who turned out to watch.

The record number of participants made the city’s recognition an extra bonus to the already popular event. The City of Calgary officially recognized September as Pride Month for 2009, with a proclamation stating: “The growing interest and participation of Calgarians in local Pride Month activities reflects Calgary’s efforts to be a more tolerant and inclusive city.”

Michael Leboldus, president of Calgary Apollo — a volunteer-run sports club that offers year round events to the LGBT community — said his group has participated for the past decade. “It grows a little more every year, and the bigger police participation is a good thing,” he said.

For Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, the event’s success fits with his riding’s disposition.

“The people of [provincial riding] Calgary-Buffalo couldn’t care less whether people are gay or straight. The acceptance of all people makes it a great riding to be in.”

While his riding is accepting, Hehr expressed his dissatisfaction with the provincial government’s handling of gay rights, pointing to an amendment made to Bill 44 last June by Cultural Minister Lindsay Blackett, which Hehr says was worded to be less inclusive for gays.

“Bill 44 has slowed progress of human rights in Alberta,” said Hehr. “The Conservative party, by passing this bill, has shown that it doesn’t respect lifestyle choices that others make.”

Despite the frustration of some, the parade was a chance for the community to show its support. The festival that followed the parade was introduced with a few speeches and then a dance took place.

There were stalls set up with people handing out pamphlets and selling items.

Organizers touted this year’s parade and festival as being for the entire community. One couple who came with the Hillhurst United Church — which had a float in the parade — said they were at there to show their solidarity.

“We came to support them,” they said.

Although they felt that this parade was smaller compared to other cities, “We’re still glad to see as many people out.”