Pride Festival calls for inclusion, tolerance
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Calling for unity and tolerance, Mayor Mike LeMay (centre) opened the first-ever Open Eyed Valley Pride Festival at the Champlain Trail Museum Saturday with a ribbon tying ceremony. More than 300 people attended the day-long event which celebrated the LGBTQ2 community and launched Pride Month.
The first-ever Open Eyed Valley Pride Festival on Saturday called for tolerance and acceptance of diversity as more than 300 city residents showed their support for the LGBTQ2 community.
The day-long event on the grounds of the Champlain Trail Museum kicked off Pride, a month-long LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Two-spirited) celebration and political activism that takes place in cities across Canada and the U.S. There was plenty of rainbow iconography, glitter and symbolism with a message of unity and tolerance - that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification has no place in today's society.
“It is a time for you to promote your dignity, equal rights and self affirmation,” said Mayor Mike LeMay, who joined those in attendance in tying together a rainbow ribbon. “Your activities have helped increase society's awareness of the issues you face. Flying a Pride flag is a symbol that, as a community, we are inclusive and respectful of all residents and visitors.”
Celebrations like this go back 48 years when the first Pride march took place in New York City after the Stonewall Riots. Stonewall Inn, a LGBT bar in Manhattan where same-sex patrons could dance with each other without the fear of harassment, was raided by police the year before prompting an uprising that lasted days. However, the Pembroke festival was looking to the future with this unique venue that replaces the annual Pride Walk. Organizers hoped to attract a wider audience that included the LGBT community as well as family, friends and allies. Judging by the attendance, that goal appears to have been reached.
“We thought it was time to evolve the parade into something more inclusive and where everybody can participate,” said event co-ordinator Jill Holroyd. “We're thrilled with the response – just to see such a cross-section of people here celebrating pride. Especially the young people. They see their role models and they can be who they are. Visibility really matters.”
The festival featured live music by Fluffy Little Cowboys, an eclectic East Coast trio that includes two former Pembroke residents, Shelley Montreuil and Maureen Adams, and an entertaining drag queen performance from Dixie and Jena Landers. There was also face painting, vendors and community displays. One of the highlights was a so-called living library called Faces of Pride which enabled visitors to sign out “human books” and hear the personal journey of someone from the LGBT community.
“It allows you to connect with somebody on a unique level,” said living library organizer Amanda Schroeder. “It allows you to understand where people are coming from. We hope this will bring visibility and opportunities for conversation into the larger community.”
Cpl. Jonathan Hutton was one of those willing to tell his story. Cpl. Hutton described his book as explaining the best decision he ever made and how he enrolled in the military.
“It's interesting to be able to sit down with someone and tell your story,” he said. “It's nice we're finding more ways to include more people.”
The day began with a brunch at The Courtyard Bistro. Later, a Pride Party was held at The Pub House. Holroyd added organizers hope to use this festival as a launching pad to run events year-round for Pride.