Pride festival in jeopardy as funding deadline looms

By Janessa Bishop

The Ottawa-Gatineau Pride committee needs some serious cash. The committee has until this weekend to come up with $50,000 in sponsorship for their August festival.

If their goal isn’t met, Pride will be forced to cancel their festival for the first time.

Pride is concerned that if their creditors don’t agree to reduced payment terms, the festival may have to declare bankruptcy.

Robert Giacolli, owner of Wilde’s on Bank Street says he lent Pride $500 worth of banners for their festival two years ago and was never paid back.

“I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t run, if it was run the same way it has the past few years,” says Giacolli.

Pride is not very well organized, and businesses are wary of the committee, says Giacolli.

“You have to have faith in something, and I don’t have personal faith in them at this point,” he says.

Giacolli says if Ottawa’s gay community cared about the festival, they would be donating more money.

Mike Tasse, manager at Steamworks, says although he supported Pride in the past, he didn’t receive anything in return.

“They never did a float for us, it was basically only the bars,” says Tasse. “You try to help them, but at the same time, they’re ditching your business.”

The committee keeps asking Tasse for more money each year and he says he just doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.

“They complain and complain and complain, then you try to give them a little something, and they always come back and complain,” says Tasse.

Tom Ramsay, owner of the gay sex shop One In Ten, says Ottawa simply doesn’t have a big enough market for the Pride festival.

“We’re not making any money off of it, and it doesn’t cover the cost and expenses we incur during pride,” says Ramsay.

Ramsay says Pride should begin to charge people entrance fees to the previously free festival.

“I think it’s a financial decision and because I’m a business owner, I look at it from a different perspective,” says Ramsay.

Ramsay says the committee needs to be treated like a business and should have full-time staff instead of relying solely on volunteers.

The Pride festival is not the only festival struggling in Ottawa, says Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes.

Pride owes the city about $15,000, but there are many other festivals in the same situation, she says.

“We’re being pretty two-faced about our support of the festivals,” says Holmes. “Sometimes we charge them more than we pay them, and we’re not providing enough funding to the festivals.”

Pride needs a stable board that can prove they are capable of running the festival, says Holmes.

Before they give out grants, the city needs to feel confident the money will be well spent, she says.

“It’s very late in the day, and it’s going to be a scramble,” says Holmes.

“They all have full-time jobs and they’re trying to pull together a festival . . . it certainly will be difficult.”