Festival bigger, better than ever after two-year hiatus

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When the organizers of Pride Winnipeg were told that the second National Fierté Canada Pride Festival was going to be held in Winnipeg in May and June of 2020, they were ecstatic.

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When the organizers of Pride Winnipeg were told that the second National Fierté Canada Pride Festival was going to be held in Winnipeg in May and June of 2020, they were ecstatic.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic put the festival on hold for two years.

Now, with the National Fierté Canada Pride Festival officially on — it will be held from May 27 to June 5 — Pride Festival Winnipeg president Barry Karlenzig says all systems are go for the 2022 event.

“Everyone is super excited,” he says, noting that 2022 is also the 35th anniversary of the Pride Winnipeg Festival. “We’re going to have 150 to 200 volunteers helping us put on the event, along with our operating team of 46. It’s going to be the first outdoor festival in Canada since COVID, so there’s going to be a really good turnout.”

Which is to say attendance numbers are expected to be exceptionally high.

“With a normal Pride Festival, about 35,000 to 40,000 people would come out — our highest number was 42,500 in 2019,” he says. “This year, we’re expecting 80,000 to 90,000 people to attend.”

Not surprisingly — this being a national event — the festival’s footprint is also going to be larger than normal for two reasons: health concerns and the fact that people from across Canada will be descending on Winnipeg to celebrate for the first time in two years.

“COVID isn’t done with us yet, so we’re doing everything by the book with the feds, province and city,” Karlenzig says. “We’re going to use every inch of available space to spread things out more to make for a safer environment. The footprint will be larger, going from Izzy Asper Way to the Red River and from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to the old railway bridge across the Assiniboine River.”

All that extra space will be needed because additional venues are also going to be added, from new stages to a second beer garden, 27 to 30 food trucks (featuring cuisine from every province) and more.

“We’re so excited to welcome everyone from across the country and internationally to Winnipeg this summer to join us in conversation and celebration.”– Barry Karlenzig, Pride Winnipeg president

“The main stage will be sponsored by TD,” he says. “There will also be a kids’ stage, Canada Pride Stage, a Kids’ Zone, and an Indigenous 2 Spirit field (programmed by Two Spirited People of Manitoba) that will host two days of specialized programming that will celebrate traditional ceremony, dance and culture. We’re going to have artists from across Canada performing.”

Not to be forgotten is the fact that an FCP Human Rights Conference will be hosted by Pride Winnipeg and Fierté Canada Pride from June 1 to 3.

“It will be held at the Radisson Hotel and will feature 40 speakers. There will be a youth conference, a Purge Fund discussion featuring the unveiling of a new exhibit at the CMHR and a gala on Wednesday night at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.”

Once Pride Week is kicked off at city hall at noon on May 27, Karlenzig and his team will set about doing two things over the following 10 days.

“First, we want to strengthen ties with community allies,” he says. “Second, we want to showcase Winnipeg and show we can put on a party as good or better than big cities. On Thursday (June 2), we’re going to invite 300 delegates to see Winnipeg by going downtown to explore the city. Our goal is to put Winnipeg on the global map by making people want to come back to hold events.”

Photo by Shandi Strong Barry Karlenzig, Pride Winnipeg president

There’s no question the festival is going to be a spectacular event, says Karlenzig.

“Its impact is going to be huge. The Alt Hotel Winnipeg (the festival’s host hotel) and Inn at The Forks are already at 90 per cent capacity and the Radisson Hotel is filling up. In total, we expect over 700 room nights to be booked. We’re so excited to welcome everyone from across the country and internationally to Winnipeg this summer to join us in conversation and celebration.”

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