Calgary Pride is all set to host its annual parade this Sunday.
According to Anna Kinderwater, communications manager with Calgary Pride, it's crucial for allies and members of the local community to participate and showcase their support.
This year's parade comes amid concerns about a rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment over the last year
"What we're hoping to focus on and bring folks' attention to is that ... we're here to have a good time and we're here to celebrate," Kinderwater said in a conversation on The Calgary Eyeopener.
"We're hoping that…[our] allies show up and really bring that sense of physical support and body presence this year."
LISTEN | Anna Kinderwater talks about this year's pride celebrations:
The Pride Festival will kick off on Saturday at Prince's Island Park. While the first day is open to attendees who are 18 or older, Sunday's festivities will be open to participants of all ages.
Calgary Eyeopener host Loren McGinnis spoke to Kinderwater ahead of the Pride celebrations.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
LM: How are you feeling headed into this weekend's festivities?
AK: Honestly, amazing. You know, festival planning can be overwhelming sometimes and we all have been in crunch time for about the last week, but it's always something we look forward to every year and we're always really excited.
LM: Does the public tenor around the parade and Pride events this year feel different?
AK: Oh yeah, [there] absolutely has been a level of raised anxiety … you know, we always want to come at this with the understanding ... this is still a celebration, right?
This is still something important for us to take up spaces of community and show people that we're still here and we're still proud and we're still going to represent our community and each other. So, yeah, the anxiety has been heightened, but we're still telling folks that we're bolstering security to make sure that this is a safe event for everybody.
This is, again, a place that people can come to celebrate and embrace and lean into their community.
Calgary Pride celebrations were back in person for the first time last year since 2019. This year's festivities will be spread out over the course of two days. (Marc-Antoine Leblanc/CBC)
LM: What's your sense of the anxiety and what's driving that?
AK: There's been a really big uptick in experienced hate crime and just in general, aggression across the city, right? I think it's been shown in a lot of areas specifically targeted towards our community. But they've just been popping up all over the city and I think … across the province.
We're just here to affirm folks like, yes, you will be protected. And we're taking measures with the City of Calgary, you know, well, respecting the past of Pride.
We're also taking measures at the Calgary police to make sure that everybody is showing up and they are able to support us and that everybody can come and celebrate and they will be protected while they do that.
LM: What can you tell us about that, about the measures being taken to make sure performers and spectators and attendees are safe?
AK: Right now, it's just our security is being bolstered. It's something we're just making sure [of].
We have to come through and make sure we've got more shifts, we've got more people on hand, we've got people who are ready to respond if anything did happen. So, right, it's obviously something we really want to do [and] make sure that folks are coming in and the key is to celebrate.
Kenneth Wyse, who performs under the name Kendall Gender, is pictured getting ready for a photo shoot in December 2020. The drag performer is one of the headliners at this year's Pride Festival. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
LM: You've been making the case that … this year, this series of events and parade is especially important for people to show up to the parade. Why is that?
AK: We're kind of communicating that Pride is mandatory this year. You know, I think that physical presence ... and having that support visible is incredibly important not only to the community but, you know, like younger queer folks who maybe haven't realized that about themselves yet, or folks who are in the closet.
Through all of this, they are even more hesitant to come out than they were before. So having that ally presence and either bringing your friends, your family, your chosen family and everybody showing, showing up physically, you know, being there in the crowd, that really communicates a power.
I think people underestimate the power that comes from a crowd and a level of that visible showing of support, it's invaluable, right?
A dog is pictured at the 2018 edition of the Calgary Pride Parade. The event is back this year with heightened security measures amid rising tensions. (Terri Trembath/CBC)
LM: What are some of the highlights of the parade do you expect?
AK: We've got like over a couple [of] 100 entries this year, so we're really excited for that. It's going to be a really great parade this year. And then, yeah, our parade is taking place the same route as last year.
So it's going to be Ninth Avenue S.W. and it's going to be starting at Fourth Street S.W. and working its way towards Fort Calgary. And then the festival itself is going to be taking place back at Prince's Island Park this year and it would be…a two-day festival which [we] are really, really excited about.