Tale Of A Toronto Pride Virgin
By. Kevin Priddle
The electricity in the air when I walked out of Wellesley subway station the Saturday night before the Toronto Pride Parade was instantly contagious. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the fun-loving pure party atmosphere that I’d found had me hooked.
The pounding of bass and electronic music surrounded us and the streets were filled with happy people. If this was a war I would have been facing off against dancing, hugging, kissing, drinking, and laughter on all fronts.
Two friends and I went to go meet up with my old roommate who was at a party in a nearby apartment building. Aside from the dozens of sweaty girls and boys drinking from red Dixie cups, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the big sign across the wall that read (in glittery gold writing) “Fuck Who You Want And Fuck Who You Like” .
Words to live by no doubt.
The next thing that caught my eye was the collection of “starships” made out of cardboard boxes and tinfoil with barbies riding them. Apparently we had stumbled into a Nicki Minaj themed pride party.
In short, this place was awesome.
It didn’t take long after we arrived for a few groups of partygoers to label us out as “the only three straight guys” there – apparently wearing too many layers of clothing and drinking strange imported beers had given us away.
But our presence didn’t seem to bother them and it sure as hell didn’t bother us, so we got right back to pounding our beers and admiring the Nicki Minaj decor. After an hour or so of mingling, my old roommate, my two friends, and I decided to hit the streets and find the next party. Little did we know that the street was the party.
We wandered a bit and found a beer garden with a giant stage and a deejay doing his thing. It was ten minutes to midnight, and unfortunately ten minutes to last call as well, so we grabbed two beers each and crept our way closer to the stage. Not long after midnight the crowd started to clear and we followed the stragglers back out onto the street.
There was one strange incident at the lineup of portable toilets as we exited the stage. As one of my buddies went into a wheelchair accessible (extra large) port-a-potty that opened up, a rather creepy fellow followed him in “to watch”. Nothing happened and the situation ended as quickly as it began when my friend told him, “Uh… buddy you’re going to have to leave now…” but still – what was this guy thinking in the first place?
I too was groped once or twice inappropriately in the crowd throughout the night, which was to say the least…weird. But in general, everyone we met was super fun, happy, and having a great time. The vibe and atmosphere of everyone on Church Street that night was just super positive.
We finished our night by purchasing a dozen beers off a nearly toothless old man who had a cooler bungee-corded to the back of his bike. We drank and danced along the street until early morning and then retreated back to the west end of the city for some much needed sleep.
The next morning we woke up late and dragged ourselves over to a nearby restaurant to scarf down some bacon and fill our bellies with coffee. After paying our bill, we decided we’d make our way over to Yonge Street and catch a bit of the parade before calling it a day.
Still a little woozy from the night before, we spent our ride on the TTC in speaking silence and enjoyed the cool breeze flying through the windows of the packed Queen Street streetcar. We got off at Spadina, headed north, and took the scenic route to College/Yonge past the various fruit vendors in Chinatown. Once we arrived we set up base on the corner of the intersection by a Tim Horton’s and watched the floats and people march by on the parade route.
Maybe it was the blanket of music that covered us as each float passed, maybe it was the smiling people that waved as they marched on by (many bare-bottomed and sunburnt), perhaps the energy of the crowd… but our plans to watch an hour of the parade and head home quickly evolved into someone saying, “Hey, why don’t we go check out Church again? Maybe grab a drink before we skip town.”
It didn’t take much to convince anyone and soon enough we were down in the subway station crossing Yonge with the parade rumbling on above our heads. We emerged on the East side of the street and meandered our way back towards the Gay Village.
There was so much going on that day. Gay Pride. Canada Day. Euro Cup soccer (football) celebrations. The whole city was alive and it was impossible to not have a smile on your face.
We stopped at the first beer garden we could find, which happened to be out back Zipperz Bar on the corner of Church and Carleton. There were a couple dozen people spread through the patio, a BBQ station selling burgers and dogs, a small bar providing ice cold tall cans, and a DJ blasting electro music.
We grabbed a drink and then headed over to the stage near the DJ booth and started what would turn into an afternoon of dancing under the sun. There were plenty of people, but no lineup for drinks so it was easy to keep a supply line steady and stocked.
We danced and drank. And then drank and danced. Any plans of heading home that might have lingered in our minds had quickly melted away.
My favourite part of this particular patio was all the intricate costumes and ways people had dressed themselves up. There was one partygoer with a painted red face, devil horns, and an elaborate set of wings attached to his back. He could have been an extra in that movie Spawn.
I’m not sure how long we had been there at this point (it’s a good thing we had gotten there early because it was noticeably busier and there was a long lineup to get through the gate), but suddenly the music stopped and all attention was placed on the stage.
I was about to witness my first drag show.
Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, and an Asian Marilyn Monroe all showed up to strut their stuff. Men approached the stage to trade paper from their wallets for kisses from the divas and the crowd cheered them on.
Hours had slipped by since we arrived, and if the red kisses the sun left on our necks and arms didn’t tell us it was time to move on, then the grumbling in our stomachs certainly did. We hung up our party caps and retreated once again to our homebase for the weekend in the city’s west end. After quenching our hunger with some of the best burritos I’ve ever had we filled a backpack with beer and headed to Trinity-Bellwoods Park to finish off our Canada Day/Pride weekend sipping beers on the grass in the company of good friends under a sky of fireworks. A perfect ending.
What a whirlwind of events the past 24 hours had been. What a party! The vibe, the atmosphere, the people: all perfect. I still can’t believe it had taken me this long to make it to a Toronto Pride Party, but I can tell you it won’t be my last.