53.54° N, 113.49° W | 10330 104 ST.
Shutting down a street is hard. But an alley? So long as you’ve got a van to block it off and a couple of rowdy queens on guard you’re set. At least that was the thinking during the days of Flashback—a gay bar considered one of the hottest clubs in Edmonton if not Canada in the 1980s. Some even called it “Studio 54 of the Prairies.”
For one weekend every summer the alley alongside the warehouse on 104 St.—which was later converted into the Excelsior Luxury Lofts—hosted the Drag Races, a ritual marking the end of one Ms. Flashback’s reign and the crowning of another. Spectators, mostly gay men, crowded the loading docks or stood amidst garbage bins for a view of the gravel strip where young men challenged each other to tug-of-war fights and three-legged races, and drag queens stumbled and clambered in their heels (the libations didn’t help).
It was great summer fun. But much more than that, it was a public show of support and defiance.