Photos and text (c) by Robert Barry Francos
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them
The theme of this year's PRIDE Festival was Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are. As with last year, it was held on the grounds beside City Hall and the Frances Morrison Library in downtown Saskatoon. As someone noted, it wasn't that long ago participating in gay activity was illegal, and now the festival is on city government property.
We were told the statistic, and if I remember it correctly:
Last year at the parade: 1,200; this year 2,100
Last year at the fest: 2,000; this year 4,000.
There was a wide variety of people present including drag kings and queens, leather boys, college students, and families.
Yes, as I've heard some complainers, there were a large number of corporate sponsors, such as a national bank (who all marched in synchronized blue t-shirts), but it felt nowhere as oppressive as the Halloween Parade in New York City has become.
My only real gripe about the whole day is the expanded size of the beer garden. No, I have nothing against drinking if that's your choice, but a whole section of the street was sealed off by ugly green wire fencing, and people hung around in this separate area the entire time, hardly a show of support for the goings on. Food and beverages of all types were behind the gate, so if one wanted to eat, one had to wait on line to pay for tickets, and then wait on another line to be served the repast. Luckily I brought water, but I believe there were a lot of others that were turned off by the system. I found the fence depressing.
There were four performances as the Fest kicked into high gear. First off were the Diva's sponsored lip-syncing by a couple of draggers (who did quite well and were very compelling). Truthfully, I didn't know either of the canned songs, but dance music is not where my interest lies. However, over some sound systems between acts, it was pretty clear that one of the favorites of the day was Lady Gaga's "Respect Yours..." - er - I mean "Born This Way."
The first group up was Jeffrey Straker. They were engaging, poppy, and definitely influenced by Billy Joel, such as song structure and intonation, with some of Elton John's flamboyance. I'm thinking the backing band is a touring group as everything I could find about Jeffrey was about Jeffrey. The woman performing with him is his sister. A few people danced, and they were clearly a hit with the audience. [jefferystraker.com]
After them was Del Barber, an "aw-shucks" country-influenced singer-songwriter who was impressively good in both sound and song. He even had a bit of a southern accent, which I found amusing since he comes from Manitoba. I'd like to hear more of his stuff. Nobody danced, but everyone there listened. [www.myspace.com/delbarber]
Last up was We Were Lovers, a duo consisting of Ash Lamothe on guitar, and vocalist Elsa Gebremichael on synth. The songs were electronic based beats, and often Elsa would leave the keyboard to dance, all the while the pre-programming kept the sound going. While I found myself bored, props must be given because they definitely had the audience on its feet with a larger number of people dancing than for the other acts. [www.myspace.com/wewereloversmusic)]
Around this time I ran into my friend and community neighbor, Dave H-, and we decided it was time to go, he was appearing in a presentation of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro (unrelated to PRIDE events) and he needed to get to ready for it; also, the time for the festival was nearly over. We headed home while WWL were still performing with gusto.
As we walked home it started to drizzle.
Below are some of my pictures of the event. The images of the audience while the band is playing is loyal to when I took them. Some comments will be interspersed, as I am inclined.
The south entrance to the park behind City Hall.
For some reason, this group's pictures have been all over the newspapers about the event.
How tough is the Saskatoon roller derby team? They can skate on grass!!
Wonder if she's ever going to regret that Jack Daniel's tatt...
Gay-friendly politician Pat Lorje wears green earrings for the occasion.
One of the coolest 'hawks I've seen in a long time.
The Fest organizers start the show.
The lip-syncing begins.
Jeffrey Straker, and his band.
I have seen her at almost every event I have gone to this summer.
President of the City Park Community Association, Nicholas (Collie) Blenkinsop.
Saskatoon-based author Wes Funk has written a couple of novels. I have read and enjoyed Dead Rock Stars, and own and plan to read Baggage.
I so wanted to have a good Ramones talk with her, but was afraid of being seen as having an ulterior motive.
We Were Lovers