Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

At rainbow's end, a Golden Boy

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The Manitoba Legislative Building is getting its gay on.

For three nights leading up to this year's 25th-anniversary Pride Day parade and celebration on June 3, a symbolic display will light up the stately edifice.

After dark on May 31 and June 1 and 2, the six columns across the grand entry will glow in the six colours of the rainbow flag. And the Pride Winnipeg logo will be projected on the building's dome, right below the iconic Golden Boy.

"It means so much," says Barb Burkowski, who is in her fourth and final year as chair of the all-volunteer Pride committee.

Burkowski, 38, says the fact that the province is letting the GLBTTQ community put its celebratory stamp on the building is a milestone that shows how much acceptance the community has attained.

It wasn't that long ago -- 25 years ago this July -- that activists anxiously waited at the Legislative Building to hear the result of a vote to include sexual orientation in the Manitoba Human Rights Code.

The bill passed by a narrow margin: 29 votes in favour, 23 opposed. Had it been defeated, there was a plan for a protest march in early August. Instead, the Aug. 2, 1987 march became the inaugural Pride celebration.

This year's 10-day festival of GLBTTQ culture and community gets underway this Friday at 12:15 p.m. with the rainbow flag-raising at city hall and ends June 3.

The lineup of events ranges from dance parties and sports tournaments to wine-tasting, a pancake breakfast and a couples-yoga class. New this year are a family fishing festival and an all-ages dance party where babies and toddlers can boogie.

Another new event is Lesbian Lube Wrestling at Club 200. An organizer was inspired by seeing gals rasslin' in "a bunch of slippery goo" at a bar in California.

The Peg version, a benefit for Pride Winnipeg, will see eight competitors -- they're supposed to wear bikinis -- in slick matchups in an inflatable pool. A local sex shop is contributing buckets of lube.

"The response has been great," says Burkowski. "I think some of the roller-derby girls are interested."

The Pride parade has grown from fewer than 300 participants to about 10,000. Technically, 2012 marks the 26th annual march. For a variety of reasons, including the now-dashed hope that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights would open in 2012, Pride organizers postponed the silver celebration until this year.

Pride Day starts with a rally at 11 a.m. at the Legislative Grounds. The colourful parade starts at noon. Then everybody moves to the free outdoor festival at The Forks (1 to 6:30 p.m.) that includes a mainstage, bigger-than-ever children's zone, business fair/market and beer tent.

The musical acts include Anjulie, The Cliks, Jeffery Straker, Jerry Sereda and Womyn of Pride.

The Forks site will also include an archival display tracing the history of the local GLBTTQ community.

The parade route no longer proceeds to The Forks, but instead heads north from the Legislative Grounds along Memorial Boulevard, east on York Avenue, south on Garry Street and west on Broadway, ending up where it started.

One of the objectives this year is a longer, highly visible route. The parade has had some floats drop out in the past because their creators felt the route was too short to justify all the effort.

Queer Beer, the "fruity and fabulous" Half Pints Brewing Co. beverage created for Pride, is on sale now in six-packs at four Liquor Marts: Grant Park; River and Osborne; Portage and Burnell; and Hargrave and Ellice. Last year, the bottles sold out partway through the launch day.

"It's the fastest-selling beer ever in Manitoba," says Burkowski. "We're making twice as much this year."

For more info on Pride celebrations, go to or pick up a printed Pride Guide.

Did you participate in the 1987 Pride march? A 25-year reunion of the original marchers is being held on Tuesday. For information, see or call 783-6424.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2012 E10

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