Close to 300 people attended 100 Mile House’s first-ever Pride in the Park event in Centennial Park last Sunday.
Chris Pettman who organized the event with Sabrina Zezza, said he was excited, proud and happy they were able to create space and represent the queer community.
“This is a really, really good start for 100 Mile House, and we’re super proud and happy,” he said. “This is community-driven and when I say community, I’m also talking about the LGBTQTS+ community.”
The event featured a day-long scavenger hunt and a Big Gay Dog Walk, in which participants brought pets – many of them dressed up – and received prizes as they walked around the park. There were also outdoor activities such as spikeball and ladder golf, and several booths, including one for younger children, so they could colour and learn. An informational Cariboo Gender Support booth and Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre booth also gave out swag such as pins and flags.
Emcee Morgan Whitehead performed a Willow Pill tribute at the event. Whitehead, who grew up in Saskatchewan and goes by the drag name, Abb’original, said their stage name is a play on Indigenous culture.
“Growing up on the reserve I never got to experience so many things like this before,” they said. “So it wasn’t until I moved to Vancouver that I got to experience more diversity in terms of different events, different communities, different friend groups… and different ways to communicate and make friends with the people I’m like.
”I feel like being here, even like five hours outside of Vancouver, I’m experiencing the true community of what it means to be queer.”
Attendee Jon Nicholson said he was surprised to see so many youth because when he was young “there were no other gay people in the world.
”I grew up in a small town where it was just never mentioned. It was underground, I kind of had to hide myself,” he said. “In those days it wasn’t even safe to be gay, so this is so great to see this.”
Laurie Lesk, who moved to 100 Mile House a year ago, said she was pleased to see a Pride in the Park.
“It is still illegal to be queer in so many countries in the world and illegal by punishment of death, and I’m not into labels, but until such a time as we can be free everywhere in the world, it’s important for us to be out and loud and very obvious,” Lesk said. “And we live in Canada and we can be queer here. We have to be. We have to be out about it for those reasons.”
Nicholson said they’re in a kind of tidal wave with the gay movement and trans movement. He said everyone just needs to accept it.
“Not only is it really great for the youth, but it’s also really great and validating for us after years of struggling. There was a really great place where the door opened and we were able to get out in public and talk to other people and even our families started to say that’s OK,” he said. “It makes me very happy.
“We happily named our movement pride, and I think that anybody who is gay and is not able to access that Pride needs to just have a tiny bit of courage and pick up some pride from us because we’ll share.”
Pettman said they already have bigger and better ideas for next year.
Whitehead, who noted this is their first Pride event ever, said they were enjoying themself even more so as a visitor than as an emcee.
“I think everyone here just wanted to get out and have an experience rather than go to an event.”