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Ottawa's Community Comes Out to Winterlude Festival

Dixie with Winterlude officials.
Photo:  Doug Muir.
A GROUP of local Community members featuring celebrity drag queens joined in Ottawa's Winterlude celebrations last night, adding a distinctive pink element to the annual Festival.

Led by Miss Gay Pride1999-2000 Dixie Landers, the group proceeded from The Lookout bar, where it had gathered in the early evening, through the market area and onto Parliament Hill, surprising and delighting its opposite direction passers-by and enjoying itself tremendously.

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Once on the Hill, Dixie and "Horizon," Miss Gay Pride 1998-99, assumed an elevated position amid participants at the eternal flame monument and posed for pictures and videos.  Smiling all the way, Dixie's natural congeniality and colourful dress pleased most of the crowd she parted.  Her male entourage, sporting elf-like neon pink toques, scrambled to keep up.

Everyone should enjoy lube and everybody should enjoy winter, and winter and lube together, well, who doesn't like to f... in the snow!
-Dixie Landers, Miss Gay Pride 1999-2000.
"Tonight is just fabulous," remarked Dixie while at The Lookout.  "Everyone should enjoy lube and everybody should enjoy winter, and winter and lube together, well, who doesn't like to f... in the snow!  What could be better?  I think it's the start of a great tradition.  A great gay tradition," she added.

Although the new diversity of the moment was well received by the mainstream crowd, it apparently was not well-understood by everyone.  Accustomed to seeing rainbow banner Pride parades, participants on the Hill seemed to want to know the reason for the Community being present in full visibility.  "It's for Winterlube, the safe-sex [...]" repeated Dixie, followed invariably by collective "OOOh's" as the surrounding confused faces relaxed.

Displaying this lack of understanding clearly were a reporter and videographer from the CBC.  Staunchly refusing to take footage of the Community group, the cameraman insisted their task was to cover Winterlude events and not people who were there "with an agenda."  He was pounced on by Community member Bruce Bursey who attempted, at length, to enlightened the man on issues of diversity and convince him that the Community's participation in Winterlude was indeed worth reporting..

Independent local TV station CHRO, however, was positioned close-by and more than happy to interview and tape the group themselves.

After further celebration and hand-clapping in a circle around the dancing Dixie and Horizon, the group started back towards the market area.  But not without passing through the Chateau Laurier hotel first.

"They look fabulous, absolutely fabulous ... absolutely," exclaimed a woman observer as Dixie and Horizon, who had been joined by Veronique de Hoe, posed for pictures in the lobby.  "You know what it is - it's Charlie's Angels," she continued. "It is.  You got the brunette, the blond and the redhead.  It's brilliant."  The three queens then posed with a cute young bell boy who was delighted and proud to have been asked.

"I'm having fun," stated Veronique.  "A little cold.  It's always fun.  Dixie's great to go out with and Horizon's always a scream.  Would have been nice to have a few more queens out there, though.  Queens don't go out when it's too hot or too cold.  It's fun.  The kids are having a ball.  The older people love it ... they appreciate it for what it is.  It's an art form."

Descending the outdoor staircase between the Chateau Laurier and the market area was a bit of a challenge for Dixie, Horizon and Veronique.  The stairs were packed with hardened snow.  But a chain across the bottom of the staircase didn't bother Veronique:  "Chains are not a problem for me.  It's the bottom part I haven't mastered yet!" she shouted.

The group ended up at Market Station where they were warmly welcomed by staff and patrons.

A Successful New Fundraiser

The new Winterlube festival is a fundraiser for Bruce House and is considered a success by lead organizer Stephane Cadieux.  Combining the need of that organization for funds with the winter doldrums in Ottawa, Mr. Cadieux, who is Development Assistant there, conceived the concept of a parallel Community festival alongside the annual Winterlude one.  Moving quickly and effectively, he pulled together wide sponsorship and support for the idea.

So the entire plan, the hope, the big hope, is that we'll use this next year as a framework, apply for festival funding and develop the first Canadian Gay Olympics.
-Winterlube lead organizer Stephane Cadieux
"What happened, frankly, was that we were having trouble getting sponsorship for the Rideau Speedos [swim team] party, so what we did is we sold them the theme "Winterlube."  I started developing it with Dougie [of Out Productions] and it really turned into 3 weeks of events."

Mr. Cadieux has larger plans for the idea, though.  He continued:  "So the entire plan, the hope, the big hope, is that we'll use this next year as a framework, apply for festival funding and develop the first Canadian Gay Olympics.  Have a Rideau Speedos meet on the first week-end, volleyball meets on the second, and then hockey wrapping-up on the third.  So, having 3 weeks of pride, like a Pride festival.  All the proceeds would go to nonprofit gay groups."

"I think only Ottawa can pull off a festival like this, because of the canal and because of Winterlude being such an established festival," he added.

Horizon was only too happy to lend her talents to the event.  "I supported Bruce House many times," she said.  "I used to do a show with Madge at Franky's and we've raised over $34,000 for Bruce House, I believe.  I'm hoping to do some more stuff for them, as long as they'll let me.  I have a weekly show at Icon every Wednesday so anytime you need any help all you have to do is come and see me," she stated.  Horizon performed at Market Station last night as well, having agreed to do a few numbers since she was coming out for Winterlube anyway.

Winterlube continues until February 20th.  The schedule of events is available at Out Productions.