Stephanie Hammond won’t be dancing on the truck leading the annual Pride parade in downtown Whitehorse this weekend, as she has in previous years.
Instead, she quips, she’ll be busy co-ordinating “dozens and dozens of floats” that are expected to take part in the third annual version of Yukon’s colourful celebration of diversity. “We have a wide definition of ‘float’, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what people create,” she says. “It could be a truck, it could be a little trailer, it could be something you pull behind a bicycle.”
As one of the founding organizers of 24+ Hours of Gaylight, Hammond says she’s impressed with the number of people in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and allies who have participated, or cheered along the parade route. “I’m always reminded every year that there are people who don’t feel supported, who don’t feel accepted, or who are looking for that,” she says. “An event like this is really important in terms of people who maybe feel marginalized, having that confident message of support and acceptance shown to the community.”
This year’s parade comes on June 27, exactly one day before the 45th anniversary of the first Gay Pride march, which took place in New York City on June 28, 1970.
That 51-block trek to Central Park from Christopher Street in Greenwich Village marked the first anniversary of spontaneous protests that broke out when police raided a gay tavern called the Stonewall Inn.
The Stonewall riots are considered a watershed moment in the gay liberation movement and the fight for LGBT rights in the United States and elsewhere. By 1971, there were gay rights marches in such cities as London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm.
This year’s parade in Whitehorse will wend its way down Main Street from the Whitehorse United Church, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a Pride Picnic at Rotary Peace Park, hosted by the Public Service Alliance of Canada/Yukon Employees’ Union.
It is the pivot point of a threeday celebration that starts on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. with the Butch and Bear Bake Off at the former Yukon Artists @ Work studio on Industrial Road.
For a $5 admission price, this all-ages competition, with celebrity judges and a people’s choice award, allows people to “come out, have a little bit of dessert, kind of get into the Pride celebrations,” Hammond explains. “We’ve had amazing, astounding creations that have come, like plaid cupcakes. It’s just a lot of fun.”
A new addition this year will be a Queer Celebrity Lookalike contest during the Pride dance at Antoinette’s restaurant on Saturday night. The idea grew out of a “really successful” drag costume competition during the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in 2014. “We were really impressed with the costumes we saw at that, so we wanted to encourage people and give them the opportunity to dress up for the dance,” Hammond says. “I anticipate we’ll get a handful of Ellen Degenereses, maybe some Neil Patrick Harrises.”
Given recent media headlines, there may even be a Caitlyn Jenner or two. Festivities will wrap up Sunday with a noncompetitive Pride Paddle from downtown Whitehorse to the Takhini River Bridge. There is no admission fee, and shuttle service will be provided from the bridge back to Whitehorse.
Organizers hope the weekend’s events will send a message of “universal support, so people are going to bring to it what they will, and hopefully take from it what they need,” Hammond says. “We like to have Pride festivities as a celebration of diversity; that we can look at sexuality and gender as a spectrum, and we don’t have to have that really fixed, firm, binary, this-or-that, Us against Them,” she adds. “If we look at all of these issues as a continuum, and just look at them with a lot of love and compassion, everyone’s going to be a lot better off.”
For more information on 24+ Hours of Gaylight, go to www. queeryukon.com.