On the morning of June 24, 2018, Mother Nature prepared herself to dress in the colours of Pride as rain poured down on the heads, hard-hats, and umbrellas of the parade-goers. As is the tradition every year, the parade occurred on the last Sunday of June, the Pride Month, in downtown Toronto. Our very own Engineering Society arranged for Waterloo Engineering students to march in the parade to support and represent the cause and the student body. As we made our way to the lobby of Davis Centre at 10:00 AM, the bright yellow school-bus rolled its way to the cul-de-sac, contrasting the gray of the weather, and foreshadowing the hues of the rest of the day – the rainbow was only a couple hours away.
We reached Allan Gardens at noon, buzzing with excitement, only suppressed by hunger until the food found a seat on the park bench. Crowding around the bench, brightly donning the tie-dye t-shirts we had all prepared a week ago, we gobbled down our Subway sandwiches – half in anticipation and half out of starvation. After lunch, we were free to roam Downtown until 3 PM, when we had to regroup and walk to the staging area of the parade. While most people decided to stay and hangout at the park, some of us tried to kill two birds with one stone by going to various food joints. Even the KitKat shop that lets you make your own flavour of KitKats – was sold out.
Nonetheless, the three hours flew by as a lot of us checked out the booths around the parade route. Both sides of Gerard Street at Church Street were lined with stalls filled with colourful merchandise and big retailers supporting the cause. The festivities imitated a carnival as games, food and vendors formed a never-ending barrier between the street and the rest of the world. A booth contained psychedelic art where all paintings were made using a variety of colours. There were dog rescue booths which encouraged us to rescue dogs instead of breeding them. Some other interesting vendors included jewellery and accessories made at a women-only facility, a candle shop with some interestingly shaped candles, a photography studio giving away $400 gift cards, and a florist which paired with the studio to give away free flowers. TD had set up a collaboration with various institutions where people could write nice messages for a cause of their choice. Dove was right beside TD, advertising their deodorants and giving away “love” bracelets. These stalls were interspersed with DJs at every intersection, food trucks and rainbow coloured flags all around! Home Depot, in a makeshift wooden hut, sold Pride stickers for a toonie each. Patios of restaurants and bars facing the street filled with happy chatter as the weather cleared. Before we knew it, it was almost three, and time for us to make the twenty-minute walk back to Allan Gardens.
Once regrouped at the Allan Gardens, we all found ourselves mingling with Ryerson Engineering’s EngOut and contemplating some inquisitive dilemmas with them; “Would you rather have warm pop or no pop at all?” was one. Tired from having walked all day, we channelled our energies using chants. The fact that we would be seeing the Tool really soon kept most of us going. Finally, we arrived at Ted Rogers Way, the staging area, where we signed in and patiently waited for our turn to march. While we waited, McMaster Band entertained everyone around with their impressive instruments; we weren’t jealous, we just wished we could do that too.
About an hour of clicking pictures, contemplating going to Starbucks, and eating granola bars, we finally reached the beginning of the parade. Here we were joined by our float – a humble pick-up truck carrying our favourite mascot, The Tool! We screamed and chanted for the Tool-Bearers to lift the Tool as we marched in the parade. The route began at Yonge and Bloor and ended at Yonge and Dundas, encapsulating four TTC subway stations. Walking in the parade is an amazing experience and it allows you to make connections with so many people. The march lasted about 30 minutes as we walked between thousands of people who celebrated Pride. We gave and received hundred of high-fives and had water sprayed on us from corners we couldn’t see. Waterloo alumni would initiate cheers from the crowd for the marchers to complete. It was an emotional experience in the best kind of way. The march ended way too soon and before we knew it, we were back in our yellow school bus, too tired to stay awake.
Pride Parade not only celebrates the LGBTQ+ rights, but also gives a platform for so many other causes to come forward. Marching in the parade is a hard-to-forget experience and has a unifying effect on all those who attend. For those of you who have never been but really want to go, mark your calendars for the month of June in 2019. I know I will.