Vancouver Pride week concludes with virtual parade

If 2020 were a normal year, hundreds of thousands of people would be crowding into downtown Vancouver this weekend for the annual Pride parade and festival.

It's an event that takes almost a year to plan, with organizers beginning preparation for the next year's events in September, according to Andrea Arnot, executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society.

Of course, 2020 is not a normal year. The global COVID-19 pandemic meant planning for this year's Pride events changed dramatically in the middle of the process. The parade was cancelled, but Pride had to go on.

"Tourism has obviously taken a hit," Arnot said. "We have lots of visitors that come specifically for Pride … It's hard and a little bit sad to think about the folks who won't be able to join us (in person)."

Organizers have moved the festival online, live-streaming events on the Vancouver Pride Society website.

While it's not the same as a typical Pride, it has its advantages, according to drag queen Conni Smudge, MC and host of some of the virtual pride events.

"Having this platform is actually a gift this year because there's going to be way more artists, way more people that aren't usually seen," Smudge said. "This way, everyone around the world can see the mosaic that makes up our community."

For the Instagrammers, large-scale art pieces by local queer, two-spirit and transgender artists have been installed around downtown.

"We wanted people to connect, even if it's online," Arnot said.

The underlying message of Pride - whether in person or online - can't be cancelled, she said.

"For queer and trans people, it’s that time of year they feel that sense of belonging and community and be out and proud and be who they are and feel safe to do so."

And when it's safe to do so in the West End again, the festival will be back.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim