After news broke of the Edmonton Pride Parade’s cancelation, Evolution Wonderlounge was offered a helping hand by the city to ensure the events festivities continue bigger and better than ever.
Frustration and finger pointing hit the city a few weeks ago when the Pride Centre of Edmonton announced that the annual Edmonton Pride Parade was canceled. It’s a city-sweeping event known for ushering in a brief respite from the one-sided, socio-political game of air hockey that is Alberta—where citizens band together in celebration of and with pride for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Like most shell shocking news that hits Edmonton, it was blown fairly out of proportion by the uninformed, with many perceiving this blow to the Pride event as a nail in the coffin for the festivities. Yet, in the face of adversity, the steadfast rally, and Evolution Wonderlounge — the last gay bar in the city — has been given the tools to ensure that Pride makes just as much noise this year as in years before.
“I think it’s a testament to how important Pride is to this city, and who Edmontonians are in terms of their identity. This city has a reputation of being incredibly resilient in the face of catastrophe,” says Rob Browatzke, owner of Evolution and organizer of the festivities.
Evolution has recently acquired assets by the City of Edmonton that wouldn’t be applied under normal circumstances. The venue holds an annual block party during Pride festivities over pride week, but now with no parade, they’ve been given two extra blocks of real estate, as well as a influx of community backers.
Browatzke says that institutions like the City of Edmonton and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) have been working in an incredibly smooth and efficient manner, in order to ensure that the block party goes off without any hiccups. A rare instance, as any event organizer knows that getting both the city and the AGLC to work in tandem is never a guarantee. With this being the case, it shows that numerous municipal and provincial institutions want to see the success of Pride as much as the public does.
“The scale of the event is triple what it has been in past years.”
Browatzke at Evolution Wonderlounge.
“Over the years, the city would often place restrictions on the area and the time frame in which we could hold the event, but due to recent circumstances we’ve expanded.… The scale of the event is triple what it’s been in past years,” Browatzke says.
With the extra breathing room, the block party will be taking up a large majority of 103 Street near the venue, eventually moving into night festivities that will be held inside the doors of Evolution once the sun goes down.
Browatzke is pleased to see the Pride focus move back downtown, as that’s where the parade was held before relocating to Whyte Avenue in 2015, yet he is aware that due to the consistent gutting of downtown infrastructure, any hope for the parade returning to the core in years to come is slim — even the block party itself will be concluding after this year due to LRT construction in the area.
“I’d love it if it all came back downtown, but the truth is, this is a one-off,” Browatzke says.
The club owner is no stranger to the crunch of organizing LGBTQ2S+ events, having been heavily involved in the queer community for decades. So when the city offered him the chance to expand his event, he jumped on it, knowing his years of experience and community support would help operations. What couldn’t be predicted was the outpouring of makeshift events after the announcement that the Pride Parade was canceled.
“You can’t cancel a day or a week, you can’t cancel an emotion — and you sure can’t cancel a movement.”
“Within 24 hours of the news breaking of the parade’s cancelation, there were roughly 17 Pride events slated on Facebook. Many on the same day, and none of them being sanctioned by the city, because people were acting emotionally,” Browatzke says.
Many of these events were eventually scrapped, but that hasn’t stopped what Browatzke refers to as “plenty of pride to go around,” as neighboring venues to Evolution will be hosting their own Pride festivities over the week. Something that he is proud to engage in and be a part of.
When it comes to how he thinks Pride will carry out this year, Browatzke says,“People were acting like the whole thing was canceled with the parade, but here’s the thing; you can’t cancel it. You can’t cancel a day or a week, you can’t cancel an emotion—and you sure can’t cancel a movement.”