The familiar white stripe crosswalks in the heart of the Village neighborhood of Toronto are now sporting a rainbow design to welcome guests from around the world to Canada this moth for WorldPride 2014 Toronto.
WorldPride 2014 Toronto is an international celebration being held from June 20-29 that incorporates activism, education, and the history and culture of global gay, lesbian and other important issues of diversity. The event is presented by Pride Toronto, producer of Canada's largest annual festival of gay, lesbian and diversity culture and human rights, under license from InterPride. Pride Toronto is the not-for-profit organization that hosts the city’s Pride Festival, an annual event in downtown Toronto during the last week of June and one of the premier arts and cultural festivals in Canada. It is also one of the largest Pride celebrations around the world with an estimated attendance of over one million people.
According to Kevin Beaulieu, executive director of Pride Toronto, WorldPride, founded by Paul Stenson, continues to be held on a five-year cycle following this month's celebration, which also marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
The inaugural WorldPride was held in Rome in 2000. The second WorldPride was awarded to Jerusalem in 2006. WorldPride 2012 was awarded to London and coincided with the 19th Annual Europride. The selection of WorldPride 2014 was chosen on Oct. 18, 2009 following the two candidates as possible host cities being Toronto and Stockholm. Toronto was selected on the second round of voting.
"In 2013, we had 1.2 million people who attended our annual three-day festival for Pride Toronto," Beaulieu said.
"The number of volunteers need and the amount of planning and preparation required for an international event is amazing."
In partnership with the City of Toronto and a number of Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), 250 streetpole banners have been hoisted in key Toronto locations to welcome travelers from across the city and around the world for the first WorldPride event ever held in North America.
"Pride Toronto is thrilled that rainbow crosswalks will not only welcome visitors to WorldPride this summer, but also will remain a permanent legacy of the event for years to come," said Beaulieu said.
Parades, special programming, music and exhibits are all included for the WorldPride celebration.
In March, the organizers announced Grammy Award winner Melissa Etheridge would be the headlining highlight of the opening ceremonies. The announcement came just after she released her anthem "Uprising of Love" for Love, Peace and Unity in support of the LGBTQ community in Russia. The opening ceremonies are in Nathan Philips Square on June 20.
"The City of Toronto is proud to be a part of the WorldPride Opening Ceremony and these imaginative marketing initiatives," said Chris Brillinger, Executive Director of Social Development, Finance and Administration.
"In addition to our annual Major Cultural Funding Grant, the City has been working with local BIAs, Tourism Toronto and Toronto Hydro to show Toronto's commitment to diversity. Nothing tells an LGBT visitor – or a resident, for that matter – that you are accepted more than seeing the rainbow flag flying from our lamp poles."
Toronto ranks as the most populated city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario, with a history that began in the late 18th century when the British Crown purchased its land. Today, the city has more than 2.6 million residents, making it the fifth-most populated city in North America. Because of its lake location and similar size, Toronto is also often referred to as "the sister city of Chicago," with both destinations boasting branches of the famed The Second City comedy improv operations.
Both cities also share some similar neighborhood identities.
While Chicago has the historic Pullman Neighborhood, in Toronto, the parallel parcel of land boasting rows of Victorian homes is called Cabbagetown. After years of blight, because of gentrification (the process of money investing neighborhood rehab and new settlement), it is now a trendy Toronto address to sport. The area's name comes from the Irish immigrants who built the neighborhood in the late 1840s, after arriving to North American during the Great Potato Famine of Ireland. The immigrants didn't waste their home's small front yard spaces on landscapes. Instead, they did just want they had been doing in their home country for survival: planting rows for cabbage in every available soil space in place of dying potato crops due to a disease.
And while Chicago boasts many museums, it does not showcase a themed museum dedicated to footwear.
It was May 6, 1995 that the Bata Shoe Museum of North America opened at 327 Bloor St. West in downtown Toronto. The dream of Swiss socialite Sonja Bata, wealthy widow of shoe baron Thomas J. Bata, who died at age 93 in 2008, the museum is housed in a modern, four level 39,000 square foot space. It was Thomas' father Tomas Bata, a Czech entrepreneur, who died young at age 56 in 1932 and founded Bata Shoe Company.
Today, at age 90, Sonja continues to foster her passion for collecting rare and historic footwear from around the world. From Ancient Egyptian sandals to a pair of papal red velvet Italian slippers worn in 1922 by Pope Benedict XV, the museum collection is vast. There is also a "celebrity footwear" wing, featuring General Napoleon's black silk socks (acquired from his personal surgeon) to Queen Victoria's white slippers (size 3). Elizabeth Taylor's silver strap heels (size 8) are autographed on the insole and displayed next to Marilyn Monroe's red pumps (size 7). Actor Jimmy Stewart's wing-tips are displayed not far from Elvis Presley's loafers and Elton John's platform shoes propped near his feud friend Madonna's star-adorned ankle boots. (FYI: batashoemuseum.ca)
For more information about WorldPride Toronto 2014, visit worldpridetoronto.com.