Rain can’t stop the Pride party – The London Free Press

The Pride London Festival came to a rainy end Sunday, but the weather didn’t stop revelers from taking to the streets to celebrate.

The festival’s grand finale parade made its way through downtown London to Victoria Park and according to Pride London Festival president Andrew Rosser, saw more participants than ever before.

“We had the largest parade we’ve ever had,” Rosser said. “It’s incredible to see how many major and small organizations are in the Pride parade.”

The sun made a brief appearance at the beginning of the festivities, but was quickly replaced by grey clouds, rolling thunder and rain.

However, parade-goers came prepared, popping up colourful umbrellas as the first few drops fell.

This is the 24th annual parade in London and while many have attended it before, there also were a few first-timers in the crowd.

Mercedes Boucher and her 16-year-old sister, Autumn Austen, were decked out in rainbow gear as they waited for the fun to make its way down Queens Avenue to them. It was Austen’s first Pride parade, and they both said they were excited for all of the fun.

“We just want to see all the love,” Boucher said. “Love is love and we just want to enjoy everybody and celebrate today.”

Daniel Payne visited from Toronto this year to attend the parade with his long-time friend Don English. Payne is originally from London, and said he has been coming to the Pride London Festival since it first began. The two of them said a lot has changed over the years.

“It’s a lot longer . . . I remember when it was just a bunch of people walking on the sidewalk,” English said.

Rosser said the first walk in 1995 was a march where they spoke on the steps of city hall and sprinkled glitter over Dianne Haskett’s hedges. The actions came after a human rights complaint was filed against Haskett for refusing to make a Gay Pride proclamation.

“Pride is always about protest,” Rosser said.

Naomi Kalynchuk said, as a transgender woman, Pride gives her the chance to be loud about her identity and about LGBTQ rights. She knows it’s a celebration, but said it’s also a space for her to express how she feels.

“For me — being trans and being a lesbian — there’s a lot of times where people had the avenue to hate on me and up until recently hate on trans, gay and lesbian people in a legal sense,” Kalumchil said. “This is my time to be the loudest I can be and say that’s not OK.”

The parade on Sunday was nothing short of a party, however, and served as a capstone to the festival which lasts 10 days.

This year, the festival was filled with inclusive events, many of them all-ages. 

Rosser said the week was “fantastic” and Londoners came out to support the festival.

“It was definitely bigger and better,” Rosser said. “I think overall we can call this a successful festival.”



We asked: What does Pride mean to you?

Sisters Mercedes Boucher, left, and Autumn Austen watch the parade to celebrate “all  the love.”

Mercedes Boucher, left, and Autumn Austen  — sisters

From: Parkhill, ON

What does pride mean to them?

“It’s loving my family and being there for everybody no matter what,” Boucher said. “For me, Pride is valuing human life.”

“Same,” Austen said in agreement.

Naomi Kalynchuk (left) and Isabelle Lapaine say Pride is a time for them to express who they are.

Naomi Kalynchuk and Isabelle Lapaine

From: London

What does pride mean to them?

“It shows people who might quietly object to these kinds of things that it just brings joy,” Lapaine said. “It’s all about happiness and expressing yourself.”

“It’s a powerful opportunity to educate people as well as celebrate,” Kalynchuk said. “Because a lot of times people come to pride shouting ‘I’m gay, I’m a lesbian, I’m trans, I’m whatever gender or orientation,’ but forget that a lot of people don’t have the education of what that is.”

Sam Clark, left, and Christine Gruenbauer attend at the Pride London Festival Parade to support friends who were in it.

Sam Clark and Christine Gruenbauer

From: London

What does Pride mean to them?

“It means being able to be who you are and be supported in the community,” Gruenbauer said.

“I love how much the whole city is getting behind it. It just gets bigger and bigger each year,” Clark said.

Don English, left, and Daniel Payne — friends for 30 years  — have been coming to the Pride parades in London since they started 24 years ago.

Don English and Daniel Payne

From: London and Toronto

What does Pride mean to them?

“It’s a sense of community. It doesn’t have to be just for gay people,” English said.

“It’s about openness and liberation and acceptance. Those are the core values and I think they’re really important in this day and age and we need them now more than ever,” Payne said.

Carly Heath, left, and Andres Garzon like that the Pride London Festival is a celebration and educational.

Carly Heath and Andres Garzon

From: Tecumseh, ON and London

What does Pride mean to them?

“I just love seeing everyone out in the community. We’re in front of a church right now which is cool. It’s nice to see everyone together,” Garzon said.

“There’s a lot of diversity in this, and it’s cool to see all of it that was at the festival,” Heath said.