tri-pride | OUTVisions for LGBT Professionals


a different kind of drag race

scott rosts

A Cultural Asset to be Proud of 

When you think of a drag race what do you envision?

Most people think of the roar of a muscle car flying down the race track. The organizers of tri-Pride Festival, however, will be welcoming back a unique event that matches drag queen and horse-drawn chariot during the 2012 edition of the festival, set to take place May 25 to June 23 in Kitchener.

“It’s a unique event and we had a lot of fun with it last year,” said Daniel Wiebe, co-chair of tri-Pride, a LGBTQ pride festival celebration that takes place each year in Waterloo Region – attracting thousands of visitors from Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and beyond. 

The second annual event is one of the highlights of the tri-Pride schedule. Slated for June 1, four drag queens saddle up with four of harness racing’s top drivers and their horses. The event, which takes place at Grand River Raceway is a fundraiser for tri_Pride, much like the other events that lead up to the one-day major event, the annual tri-Pride music festival.

“It was one of our most successful fundraisers,” said Wiebe, noting other events that help raise funds and are part of the tri-Pride celebrations include a bonfire with Gays & Lesbians of Waterloo (GLOW), Lesbo Bingo, and more.

This year, said Wiebe, will be a big one for tri-Pride, which started in 1995. Not only is the board of directors trying to bounce back after bad weather caused the cancellation of their main event in June, but they are also going to be celebrating the music festival in a brand new venue. In past years the free outdoor festival has been held in Kitchener’s Victoria Park, but this year they are moving to downtown Kitchener, where they will be taking over city hall.

“We’re anxious to see how things turn out this year,” said Wiebe. “I think it will have a whole new feel and it will definitely make us more visible to the community at large being right downtown.”

Being open and accessible to everyone in the community is an important aspect of tri-Pride, he said. The event celebrates all sexualities,

“These events are for everyone, and one of the great parts of our festival is that we have always made a family-oriented event,” said Wiebe, noting a kids’ zone, sponsored by TD, is part of the celebration. “I like the way we can celebrate, and still make it an event you can bring your children to. Not ever Pride celebration is like that.”

The musical lineup for the entertainment stage hasn’t been finalized for the event, which is scheduled for June 2. The free event features much more than just the music. There is a festival market village, with everything from Pride flags to necklaces to bumper stickers and more vendor goods. The TD Kids’ Zone, a kids-only activity centre, allows youth to play all day, and there is also a massive silent auction, licensed area, and refreshment area.

Wiebe said another important part of the festival is the community and social group exhibits. LGBTQ community groups and other not-for-profit groups and exhibitors will be on hand to display information throughout the day, and attendees can find new ways to get involved in the community.

“It’s a great way to allow some of the other groups an opportunity to showcase what they’re all about and what they do,” said Wiebe. “This is a celebration of our community, and they all play a big part.”

The stage entertainment itself varies, with musical entertainers, dancing and much more for a full day of performances. Last year they lined up Sophie B. Hawkins, who in the early ‘90s earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist and shot up the charts with her single “Damn I Wish I was Your Lover”, as their headliner.

Last year the organizers actually got a preview of their new venue. While the music festival was cancelled in June, they held what they called a “Resurrection” party in August downtown. Wiebe said the event went over well, but they are looking forward to the major celebration in 2012.

“I think the community was really let down, so with the new location, the opportunity to catch even a wider audience, and those who missed last year, I think it’s going to be a great celebration and we’re proud that is has become an important cultural asset  in our community,” he said, noting over the years there has been steady growth, so he is looking forward to what kind of numbers they draw this year.

The tri-Pride celebrations are completely volunteer driven. The board of directors and loyal volunteers help put the event together each year, and not only do they serve the community, they also recognize the other community groups that do good. A community awards program recognizes the accomplishments of LGBTQ individuals and supportive groups and organizations in Waterloo Region. Wiebe said making visible the work of these individuals and groups is truly important.

“These groups and people make our community a better place and their contributions should be recognized,” said Wiebe. “They are working all year and giving back to the community.”

As details of this year’s tri-Pride festival are finalized they will be posted on the tri-Pride website. Full details on the Tri-Pride Night at the Races have already been unveiled online, and the full lineup of the music festival will be announced in coming weeks. For more information on the festival, including hotel and travel information for those wishing to attend from out of town, visit

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