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EVENT: Toronto Pride 2012 returns with massive parade through downtown

Pride is returning to Toronto for its 32nd year and while one big name isn’t expected to attend, there are plenty more revellers to fill his spot.

“Pride is massive and it’s growing,” executive director Kevin Beaulieu told CityNews.ca.

“We’re in the top tier of attendance in Toronto and among the biggest festivals in the province. We take over 20 city blocks.”

Over 400,000 people attended Pride in 2009. The arts and culture festival, which kicks off June 23 and ends with the parade on July 1, brings $136 million to Toronto and Ontario, Beaulieu said.

Mayor Rob Ford has said he won’t attend the massive Pride parade for the second year in a row, but he may still attend other events.

And there are a slew of events to choose from.

“The festival will be packed,” Pride Toronto arts and culture manager TK, who goes by one name, told CityNews.ca.

New this year is another community stage, which will be located north of Wellesley Street on Church Street.

“It’s very exciting. It will feature programming for trans-identified and gender-variant community members,” TK said.

In 2014, Toronto will be hosting World Pride, an organization that promotes LGBT issues on a global scale.  Toronto was chosen as the host by InterPride, an international association of pride coordinators, in 2009. The city bid against Stockholm for the honour.

“I guess the judges liked us. We were just so eager and we’ve doing this a long time, especially by international standards,” explained Beaulieu.

To prepare, there’s a special “teaser” stage this summer. Canadian and international acts will perform on the south stage, right across from Maple Leaf Gardens.

“It’s the first time World Pride will be held in North America, and only the fourth one ever,” Beaulieu said.

A series of police bathhouse raids led to the first Pride in 1981. That grassroots protest has since grown into a massive 10-day event with corporate sponsors, a street fair, and a parade that includes police officers.

As always, there will be a variety of LGBTTIQQ2SA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2Spirit and Allies) performers, community art projects, and special events for family and youth.

“My favourite thing is meeting people on the street during the weekend, old friends and new, and being part of the community gathering,” Beaulieu said.

Returning Pride programs include Family Pride, Fruit Loopz (a youth program), brOWN // out (a South Asian program), DestinAsian (an East and South-East Asian program) and a Metropolitan Community Church service on July 2.

The Trans Pride March will take place June 29, the Dyke March is June 30, and the Parade is Canada Day, July 1.

“The two marches are generally more grassroots in their look and feel than the Pride Parade,” TK said.

“Though there is still plenty of activism in the Parade, it also has a celebratory feel, includes more floats and is where you tend to see more corporate participation, such as an LGBTQ employees group.”

While Pride organizers have set the dates for the three big marches, the full schedule hasn’t yet been released. Check the Pride website for updates.

The Pride Parade winds its way through the downtown on July 1. Check out the route below.

View Toronto Pride 2012 Parade Route in a larger map