The first time David Tillson went to the pride parade in Victoria, he walked away feeling liberated and empowered.
He was 30 years old at the time and decided to dress up and roller skate in the parade. Sporting an orange sundress, hard hat, orange umbrella and big blonde wig, Tillson found a place he finally felt welcome.
“When you’re young and you’re feeling oppressed and you’re different, suddenly you realize there is other people like you and the world isn’t such a horrible place that it can be,” said Tillson, who’s been the president of Victoria’s pride society for the last 12 years.
“I think it’s really encouraging. That was a beautiful day.”
The Victoria Pride Society started as a casual picnic in Beacon Hill Park more than 20 years ago and continues to focus on supporting inclusiveness, accessibility and diversity. It has staged the week-long celebration of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in the city for a number of years, drawing thousands of people from far and wide.
This year’s pride week kicks off with the memorial dragball game on July 1, followed by nine days of various events, 120 vendors and a beer garden for 1,800 people. The week wraps up with the colourful pride parade, which has 110 entries, and the festival on Sunday, July 10. People from all walks of life are encouraged to walk the parade route.
This year organizers are expecting to draw 10,000 people to the festival at MacDonald Park, which will feature two stages of entertainment, a kid’s camp and newly added Queer Town.
Leading up to the week-long celebration, Tillson’s “to do” list kept growing as emails continually flooded his inbox with tasks that still need to be done. Planning for pride week began in December. Tillson is always amazed how many people show up for the celebrations each year.
“I don’t know where everybody comes from. Suddenly they all show up,” he said with a laugh. “I just hope they meet new people and they have new experiences and I hope they enjoy themselves and maybe learn something new.”