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Windsor-Essex Pride Fest gears up with week of events

Wendi Nicholson, president of Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, shares a message on Ottawa Street on Aug. 8, 2023. Pride Fest events take place throughout the week, including the Pride Parade on Ottawa Street on Aug. 13. PHOTO BY DAN JANISSE /Windsor Star

What can the public expect from the many Windsor-Essex Pride Fest events happening over this week and next weekend?

“So much fun,” said Wendi Nicholson, president of WE Pride Fest. “Rainbows and glitter for days!”

After months of planning, and with the efforts of countless volunteers, the Windsor-Essex region’s annual multi-day celebration of its 2SLGBTQIA+ community is in full swing and offering lots to do.

Art Jam (Wednesday through Friday)

Express yourself artistically at Pride Fest downtown partners Artcite Inc. (109 University Ave. West). From noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, visitors can participate in a variety of free activities such as poster-painting, button-making, and even tie-dying.

“Just go and be creative,” Nicholson said.

Pride Inspired (Wednesday)

Get to know the official ambassadors of this year’s Pride Fest — reality TV star Craig Ramsay and pro wrestler Gisele Shaw. Both will be at the Essex Centre Sports Complex (60 Fairview Ave. W. in Essex) at 7 p.m. to share stories and take questions about each of their journeys as 2SLGBTQIA+ representatives.

Bowl With Pride (Thursday)

Pride Fest’s tradition of a family-oriented bowling night continues at 7 p.m. at Revs Rose Bowl (2482 Dougall Ave.). Attendees can enjoy two free games of bowling, plus prizes and a raffle.

“It’s been a staple of the festival,” NIcholson said. “That place is packed every time — so come early. Everybody comes out for fun. It’s amazing to see the families there.”

Friday Night Live (Friday)

Pride Fest’s big night of free live music kicks off 5 p.m. at Lanspeary Park (1250 Langlois Ave.) with a diverse and melodious lineup.

There’ll be vibrant pop artist Alisabeth Von Presley, singer-songwriters Sarah Smith and Carly Thomas, folk-rockers Nikki Holland & The Dirty Elizabeths, Motes & Oats, the Gritty Angels Band, and many more.

“Oh my gosh, I’m looking forward to all of them,” Nicholson said.

Glitterball (Friday)

Want to get glittery? Toronto drag performer Sofonda Cox headlines a wild night of DJs and dancers starting 10 p.m. at the Water’s Edge Event Centre (2879 Riverside Dr. E.). Open to those 19 years of age or older, this is one of the few ticketed events during Pride Fest ($25 at the door).

“That’s just one big dance party,” Nicholson said.

Run For Rocky (Saturday)

Want to do something healthy? Join either the five-kilometre fun run or the three-kilometre walk starting 10 a.m. at Dieppe Gardens on Windsor’s scenic riverfront (78 Riverside Dr. W.). A post-run party will follow at 11:30 a.m. at Lanspeary Park.

Named after the late Rocky Campana of Windsor, this charitable fitness event has supported and promoted the region’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community since 2013.

Pride Fest Marketplace (Saturday and Sunday)

Lanspeary Park becomes an open market for all things Pride Fest this weekend. Visitors during the day can check out the offerings of an estimated 70 vendors — not to mention food sellers, an outdoor beer garden, activities for kids, and plenty more.

Marketplace hours on both days begin at 11 a.m. and continue into the evening.

Queens of Pride (Saturday)

Chelazon Leroux, Saltina Shaker, Aurora Matrix, and Koko Starr are just some of the names of the drag performers taking over the stage at Lanspeary Park starting 8 p.m. Viewers can expect an ensemble of glamour, theatricality, and audacity. “Very big energy,” Nicholson assured.

All ages are welcome at this ticketed event, but those ages 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Admission is $20, VIP seating is $40.

Pride Parade (Sunday)

It’s time to show your colours. The region’s Pride Parade — a tradition since 1992 — happens at 11 a.m. on Ottawa Street, starting at Argyle Road and proceeding to Langlois Avenue. All are welcome to line the street and fly their rainbow flags.

This year’s one-kilometre route will be filled with an estimated 60 entrants, including family-friendly floats, walkers, and allies from the community at large. “It’s just going to be amazing,” Nicholson promises.

Pride Day Celebration (Sunday)

Immediately after the parade, the jubilation continues at Lanspeary Park. Comedian Mel Lucier and drag performer Juice Boxx will co-host a day of revelries and entertainment, with words from Pride Fest’s ambassadors, live music from Saints Down and Tony Coates, stage shows from Vanessa Bae and Hawaii Goodvibes, and much more.

For more information about Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, including a complete schedule, visit wepridefest.com.

Originally posted in the Windsor Star