Nashville North is one of the Calgary Stampede’s flagship party tents. It is loud, rowdy and populated by spilly-talkers. Charles Macmichael will spend Saturday in this notorious space, celebrating one of Stampede’s unofficial parties: Gay Day.
Mr. Macmichael organizes this annual LGBTQ event, a gathering that expanded by a factor of six in three years. Saturday marks the event’s fourth anniversary and by Friday afternoon, 360 people on Facebook said they would attend. More than 300 people showed up last year, sporting “Hello My Name Is” tags with joke names so attendees could pick out LGBTQ community members and their allies.
Gay Day is a party-within-a-party, with thousands of people pretending to polka at Nashville North unbothered or unaware of the celebration’s existence. Gay Day has political undertones but that is not what drives the inclusive event.
“It is a grassroots way for the gay community to embrace the Stampede spirit,” Mr. Macmichael said. “For some people, it is just fun event and a reason to go out and meet new people. And for other people it is a way to feel more comfortable and maybe even safer.”
Nashville North holds 2,500 party-goers and, throughout Stampede, thousands of people stand in line for hours to get in. The crowd’s enthusiasm for two-stepping and line-dancing makes up for what the participants lack in skill. Gay Day organizers deploy two Stampede veteran moves: First, they suggest people show up between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., which means avoiding the snaking line and giving the gang a chance to stake out a home base; and second, the event is on the second day of the 10-day festival, before Nashville North gets too filthy.