Don’t Fence Me Out!

I had a good time watching the Pride Parade on Saturday. It is always fun to watch, and the crowd is always good-natured.  Edmonton turns out in huge numbers to watch the parade and join in the festivities, and this year there seemed to be even bigger crowds than usual.

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Thankfully, I had remembered to bring lawn chairs. I can’t stand for long periods of time, and my family and I had arrived at the parade location about an hour before it was due to pass by. So, I was able to sit near the curb during the wait and the hour or so that it took for us to see the whole parade.

It is an indication of how popular this event is that we were not able to actually sit next to the road, but found a spot behind some people who had arrived even earlier than we did. It’s quite a long route and it was already occupied the whole way. The parade was as colourful and entertaining as I expected, and it was great to see so many local organizations, politicians, pro athletes, and LGBTQ-friendly businesses all taking part.

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After the parade, my son was due to perform a half-hour set at the beer garden. He is a singer-songwriter with the stage name of Must Be Tuesday, and he is well-known in local LGBTQ circles for his witty and personal story-telling songs. We walked over to the stage in plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and for Jamie to check in.

We left him at the performers’ entrance ninety minutes before his set and walked around to enter the beer garden through the public entrance. Our plan was to set up our lawn chairs in front of the stage and then get lunch at one of the food trucks inside the beer garden. That didn’t happen.

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When we got to the public entrance we discovered that there were two gateways; one for people who had bought passes for Pride Week events and one for the rest of us. We were going to be required to pay $10 each to enter the beer garden, and so we joined the very long line of people waiting to go in. Except that they weren’t letting people in. I was told that the grounds were already at legal capacity and we had to wait for people to leave.

As we stood in line we could easily see the happy revellers through the fence. We could see the long lineups for beer, and we could see friends of the people in line calling to them. One person was even admonished for sharing a beer over the fence; a security guard told her it was a federal offence and she had to leave!  After a brief chat, though, he allowed her to stay in line.

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The longer we waited, the more people left the lineup in frustration. We gradually got closer to the gate but we decided that if we were not able to gain admission to the beer garden we would watch Jamie perform from outside the fence. We could see the stage from where we were waiting and, although it wasn’t near, it was at least visible and audible.

After waiting for over an hour, we gave up on the line to enter, and I parked my lawn chair by the fence just before Jamie began to sing. We may have been the most attentive audience members because the people inside the fence were busily enjoying beer and each other’s company. Occasionally we had to ask people to move aside so that we could see the stage, and they happily complied.  One fellow, surprised, said “Oh, you want to see the guy on the stage?” as if that was a silly thing to do in a beer garden.

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Ironically, it was just after Jamie began his set that security started letting our line of people into the fenced-in area. The crowd inside had not noticeably diminished, so I still don’t know what was the logic behind making us all wait. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure that the festival pass holders got in first.

We chatted about our experience as we headed home, and we agreed that the beer garden really is not the best venue for a performer whose charm is in the words they sing. In an outdoor location with alcohol, the patrons would probably prefer music with a loud beat and repetitious lyrics. In fact, live performances aren’t really necessary when no-one is really paying attention; recorded music would fill that bill quite easily.

I’ll continue to support Pride Week, and I’ll probably continue going to see the parade, but I definitely won’t be going to any beer garden shows from now on. Sorry, Jamie. I love seeing you perform, but only in venues where they don’t fence me out!

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