For the first time ever, the Bank Street BIA put on a Halloween party Oct 31 — and all the gays were invited.
From 5 to 9pm on Halloween night, the stretch of Bank Street on either side of Somerset Street West was filled with Halloween revellers, including trick-or-treating at Bank Street stores, a window display contest for the merchants and a photo booth with a tickle trunk on Bank near Gilmour.
“The BIA’s marketing committee was looking for ways to bring folks down to the street,” says Ian Capstick, director of the BIA and chair of the Village Committee. “We noticed that there weren’t any other downtown BIAs that were focused on Halloween. You have to go all the way to Saunders Farm or to the new thing that’s happening over at Fun Haven — Chills for CHEO — to get a Halloween experience. We figured that downtown Ottawa would be a perfect spot for it. It mixes really well with the Village since Halloween is a really big gay holiday.”
Halloween revellers stop by the photo booth at the Bank Street BIA Halloween party.
Some people were surprised that the BIA took part in a queer-inclusive special event in the Village that was directly supported by the Village Committee – the BIA has not always been gay-friendly. But Capstick says that’s all in the past.
“All of that ceased to be an issue once the official designation went into place and everybody realized that it wasn’t a huge, big deal. I’ve never once felt any of that in my time on the BIA,” says Capstick, who has been sitting on the BIA board for the past three months.
The Village Committee even offered up its volunteers in support of the BIA’s Halloween event.
“Myself and Hershel Kagan, our treasurer, and Doug [Saunders-Riggins] and Kevin [Martin] reached out to all the regular Village volunteers. Plus Hershel has a connection to Canada World Youth,” Capstick says. “We try, in the Village, to do something every couple of years with the Canada World Youth kids that are here. This year, they’re from Somalia. We figured we would encourage them to hand out candy on Halloween night. It’s a neat cultural experience.”
The main intention behind the event was to bring together the families of Centretown and improve the Halloween experience in the gaybourhood.
“It’s definitely got a family focus to it. We wanted all the queer families — and the rest of Ottawa families — to come down on Halloween night,” Capstick says. “It’s an outlet for our downtown communities to have another way to do Halloween. We all know that Centretown isn’t particularly good for trick-or-treating.”
While this year’s event drew only a few dozen trick-or-treaters and about 200 or so people at the photo booth over the three days it was up, Capstick isn’t fazed. He says the event went well and offers the BIA something to build on for future.
“It was neat to see some vibrancy and life to the street,” he says. “Not too many trick-or-treaters, but we’ll build on that. People were loving it; it was a lot of fun. I think people were surprised to see something going on down on the street. I’m looking forward to next year. It’s our plan to go bigger and encompass more adult entertainment later in the evening. We’re also hoping to attract the zombie walk next year, which would be tons of fun.”