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Pride Festival hits new highs

The majority of the events for the eighth annual Jasper Pride Festival were either sold out or at capacity. P. Clarke photo.

The majority of the events for the eighth annual Jasper Pride Festival were either sold out or at capacity. P. Clarke photo.

By all accounts the eighth annual Jasper Pride Festival was another huge success.

Early numbers suggest attendance for this year’s festival was up by 20 per cent over last year with the majority of events either sold out or at capacity, including the Pride Gala, which at one point had a waitlist to get in.

“Last year was hard to beat and we still beat it,” said Jordan Tucker, co-owner of Jasper Event Management, which helped organize the festival.

He estimated nearly 1,200 people attended the gala over the course of the evening on Saturday night.

“Typically in the past we’ve historically sold about 300 to 350 tickets online and then have doubled that at the door. This year we sold about 575 tickets in advance, so we knew we were going to be busy.”

This year there were 25 events over the course of four-days such as skiing, ice climbing, movies and burlesque shows.

“All of the events themselves were primarily sold out and at capacity, whether it was the open events like Whistle Stops’ lumberjack party or the girls night out at 4Peaks,” said Tucker.

The only event that still had a few spots open was Sunday’s Pride Brunch, however Tucker suggested that might actually be a reflection of how much fun people were having.

“I think the three nights leading into the brunch were pretty hard on some people because they were having so much fun,” said Tucker, explaining there were several no-shows despite having purchased a ticket.

He credits the popularity of this year’s festival on several factors, including the community’s unwavering support, the draw of being in the mountains and the work of the Jasper Pride Festival Society.

“The board made a decision last year to really focus on the best entertainment we could find and source and that really made a difference to each event and the attendance as well,” said Tucker.

On top of the festive atmosphere there was also love in the air, including at least two engagements over the weekend.

“It’s just really cool to see people are really emotionally attached to coming to this festival,” said Tucker.

To kick off this year’s festival organizers hosted a flag raising ceremony on March 9.

Yellowhead MLA Eric Rosendahl brought greetings from Premier Rachel Notley and the Alberta government as well as a $40,000 cheque for the festival.

He noted the NDP government recently strengthened the province’s human rights legislation to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression, emulating Jasper’s progressive reputation.

“Jasper has been long known for being welcoming, friendly and open to diversity,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life come to Jasper to find a community that is inclusive and embraces duality.”

Tucker said the money will be used to pay for the festival and any remaining money will be used for future planning. The festival will be unable to apply for the grant next year because it got the grant two years in a row.

Deputy mayor Rico Damota also briefly spoke during the flag raising.

“Our administration, along with council, are currently working on a proclamation which will continue to foster making future decisions through the lens of inclusion, keeping the cohesiveness of the community in mind and advance basic respect, truth and human dignity in every aspect of community life,” said Damota.

“My personal vision of the future sees the colours of the rainbow, not only represent a specific community, but all communities and all walks of human life.”

Paul Clarke

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