Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whistler Festival Attracts Visitors from around World to Raise Rainbow Banner

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whistler Festival Attracts Visitors from around World to Raise Rainbow Banner

Article excerpt

Whistler festival attracts gays from around world

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WHISTLER, B.C. - When a group of skiers glides down a mountain carrying a giant rainbow banner that will be handed off to participants in the Whistler pride parade, the town will be buzzing with visitors from around the globe.

One of the world's top-rated ski resort communities will turn into party central during the annual gay ski festival as the municipality proclaims Pride Week and raises a rainbow flag to welcome gays from 25 countries.

WinterPRIDE organizer Dean Nelson says about 3,000 people are expected at the sports, cultural and entertainment event that runs till Sunday.

Besides taking to the hills, participants will have a chance to enjoy dogsledding, snowmobile tours, tubing, ziplining, cooking classes and dance parties featuring top DJs from Barcelona and San Francisco.

The Mr. Gay Canada contest will also be held during the eight-day extravaganza, with the winner moving on to the world finals in Rome in August.

Most of the fun seekers will make the trek from across Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, but more participants than ever are arriving from Croatia and Lithuania this year, Nelson says.

Many of them will have heard about the 22nd annual festival at the World Outgames in Antwerp, Belgium, where it was promoted last summer, he says.

In 2010, WinterPRIDE organizers created Pride House at Whistler for gay athletes and the public during the Olympics, further raising the festival's profile.

"It was our initiative to raise awareness of homophobia in sport and that has really put Whistler out there as one of the ski resorts in the world that is inclusive and diverse," Nelson says. "It was the first time in Olympic history where diversity was celebrated and homophobia was talked about. London picked up the idea with Pride House in 2012."

Nelson says representatives from the City of Toronto, Tourism Toronto, Tourism Ontario and Pride Toronto will also be at WinterPRIDE this year to talk up that city's World Pride event, the first time it will be held in North America, as part of the annual Pride Toronto event this summer. …

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