May, 2016 / Author:

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It’s time to celebrate everything that’s fabulous about Manitoba’s queer community, and this year’s Pride Winnipeg Festival is letting out the seams a little to make sure the ever-growing party has the room it needs to properly get down.

This year the festival, which runs May 27 to June 5, is extending hours to 8 p.m. on both the Saturday and Sunday eve- nings of the weekend festivities at The Forks. Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak says the changes were made because of what he calls a good problem to have—a crowd that’s getting bigger every year and that increasingly doesn’t want the good times to stop.

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“We’ve been at The Forks since 2010, and it’s just been constantly growing, and we pack that site every Sunday, so I think the extended hours will allow the folks to enjoy the festival for a little bit longer,” he says, noting the change will also bring in more revenue to help next year’s festival to expand. “It allows us to extend our revenue streams—the beer and beverage tent brings in about 30 per cent of our revenue for our operating budget—so that definitely helps us reinvest and bring new content for the following year.”

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The extra hours mean more work for the 125 or so hard-working volunteers who help make the festival happen every year, and that, in part, has led to another change at this year’s festival; the party that traditionally wrapped up the festival Sunday night is moving to the festival’s opening night instead.

“A lot of the feedback we’ve gotten from community has always been, ‘Why do the party on Sunday? I can never go because I have to work the next morning,’” says Niemczak. “And it’s also taxing on us because a lot of the staff is working from four in the morning to get everything ready for the parade and the rally on that Sunday, and then we’re going until essentially four in the morning on the Monday wrapping up the closing party.” “So I think having an opening party will be a little easier on everyone.”

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This will mark the fourth festival Niemczak has planned in his role as Pride Winnipeg president, and he says one the biggest challenges he faces every year is helping to pick a theme. This year’s theme is Be Authentic, something Niemczak says is an important message for the community and its allies to remem- ber in their day-to-day lives.

“Every year, when we try to conceptualize what we want to do, we always do an environment scan to see what are some of the pressing challenges that are facing the community,” he says. “For this, with ‘Be Authentic,’ it was definitely a nod to a lot of the issues that we’re seeing with youth right now with depression and suicide rates. We wanted to enforce a message this year of encouraging folks to be themselves and not let other people try and dictate how they should live their lives.”

For more information on everything that’s planned for the Pride Winnipeg Festival this year, or to volunteer, go to pridewinnipeg.com.

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PRIDE SCHOLARSHIPS

For the first time, this year’s Pride Winnipeg Festival will be collecting money from festival-goers for scholarships to help young people pay for their post-secondary education. And helping the cause is as easy as tipping the friendly staff serving refreshments at the beer and beverage tents throughout the festival.

The idea, dubbed ScholarTIPS, came to Pride Winnipeg’s vice president of programming, Robert Biscontri, after he counted up the hundreds of dollars in tips folks left their servers on the debit and credit card machines during last year’s festival.

“We were getting these tips, and we went back to the servers, and when we asked them how they wanted to distribute them, they said keep the tips for the organization,” he says. “This is not money we thought we were going to get and never budgeted for, so I thought let’s throw it into a scholarship and pay it back to everybody.”

The exact amount of the scholarships and the number of them they’ll give away depends on how much they can bring in, says Biscontri. He hopes to be able to give away as many as three $200 to $500 scholarships this August.

The scholarships are open to anyone in the community— including supporters—who are going to college or university and could use the help. Those interested will be asked fill out an application on the pridewinnipeg.com website and complete a 200-word essay on how they see themselves in the community and why they could use the assistance.

Applications are due by July 31, and the winners will be announced in August.

Biscontri is also hoping to see the ScholarTIPS program eventually expanded into a permanent endowment fund offered through the Winnipeg Foundation, something he said will be possible once the organization raises $10,000 in donations.

Donations can be made outside of the beer and beverage tents by sending an email to donate@pridewinnipeg.com.

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