This year's WorldPride festival in Toronto is shaping up to be one of the city's most ambitious celebrations, as Pride Toronto announced a crowded lineup of events and musical guests.
Kevin Beaulieu, WorldPride's executive director, acknowledged that the scope of the 10-day festival (June 20-29) is larger than any Pride event Toronto has ever hosted. He said he wants it to be recognized as "a global celebration that carries on for generations to come."
"I want WorldPride itself to be a legacy," said Mr. Beaulieu at a media preview detailing the events. "When it's celebrated in Madrid in 2017, and whoever hosts it after that, they're going to say, 'Remember Toronto? That was when it all came together."
In addition to Melissa Etheridge and Juno Award winners Carly Rae Jepsen, Deborah Cox and Tegan and Sara, the festival will play host to Grammy-winning artist Estelle, Canadian singer-songwriter Carole Pope, Fefe Dobson, the Cliks and Parachute Club among others.
On the arts and culture front, WorldPride announced that this year's program includes 558 collective days of LGBTQ programming by 17 major sponsors, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto Public Libraries and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Mr. Beaulieu also said the CN Tower will be lit in rainbow colours in honour of the festival.
"For some of our partners, it will be the first time they have programmed LGBT content during a Pride celebration. For others, who have done it before, they are taking it to a new level," said Chrystal Dean, WorldPride manager at Pride Toronto, in a press release.
Roughly 1.2 million people attended Toronto's three-day Pride festival last year, and Mr. Beaulieu estimates as many as two million will attend WorldPride.
"The journey started in 2009 when we were in Tampa and we wanted to see WorldPride celebrated here," said Ms. Cox. "This country has been very, very progressive with human rights, LGBT rights, and this is the best city in the world."
The festival is set to kick off with a free opening ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square on June 20 that will feature musical performances by Ms. Etheridge and Ms. Cox, as well as fireworks and the ceremonial rainbow flag raising at City Hall.