Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG
VANCOUVER - Rainbow flags, balloons and streamers flew high above downtown Vancouver on Sunday despite initial gloomy weather.The annual Vancouver Pride Parade kicked off on Robson Street at noon. The booming music and extravagant floats and costumes drew large crowds of enthusiastic supporters.The colourful float manned by Celebrities Night Club attracted dozens of people.Onlookers lined up to take photos with hostess Ms. Vegas Van Cartier, who was flaunting a bright pink, green and blue ruffled dress, a turquoise beehive-styled wig, heavy make-up and sparkly jewelry."I'm just here to show people who I really am," said the Abbotsford native, 28. "Today's the day we have the freedom to do whatever we like. It's very empowering."In front of the Cirque de So Gay float, tourist Irma Grobler was eagerly snapping photos of dancers dressed in drag, neon spandex, bikinis and superhero attire."I've just arrived and I can't get enough," she said, laughing. "We don't have anything like this in South Africa. It's so exciting and creative and it takes a lot of guts for them to do this. South Africa is still very conservative, I think something like this will open people's minds."Further down the road, men and women alike were strutting along in flashy Brazilian showgirl costumes. Their gold, orange and white feathers spanned the width of the walkway and brushed against spectators reaching out with their cameras.Vega Hui, 20, was visiting from Oregon. She has been to the pride parade in Seattle before, and is glad to see so many more Asian people enjoying the parade in Vancouver, she said.Hui's parents, who are Chinese, do not know she is a lesbian."They are not okay with gay people," said Hui, who is originally from Hong Kong. "They probably know I'm gay but they don't want to face it and I don't want to hurt them."This year's pride parade boasted nearly 150 floats and 600,000 spectators. But it wasn't just an event to showcase Vancouver's sexual diversity. It was also an opportunity to illustrate the city's cultural diversity and political activism.Filipino children, representing the Musica Society, rode along in scooters wearing t-shirts that said "Pinoy Pride" and holding signs saying, "Celebrate. Liberate. Educate." The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid wore pink handkerchiefs and chanted, "More Masturbation! No Occupation!"Gordon and Diane Peters said this was "a weekend to remember," after having attended a wedding, the Celebration of Light fireworks on Saturday night, and now the first gay pride parade of their lives.The couple, from a small town in Manitoba, weren't so much boggled by the kinky costumes or half-naked dancers squirting people with water guns, but by the number of spectators."I'm not a big parade person," said Diane."There is a lot of people here, and a lot of support for different people, different cultures. It's amazing."Asked how she would feel if any of her children or grandchildren choose to participate in the parade, she said, "It would be totally fine. Why should it bother me?"