'It’s going to be a blast': Pride Week catering to multiple age groups

City councillors and other volunteers paint this year’s Pride crosswalk in downtown Grande Prairie on Tuesday, June 4. Photo courtesy of Grande Prairie Pride Society Facebook

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The Grande Prairie Pride Society is hosting three separate events for its 2019 Pride Week that will each target a separate age demographic this weekend.

Events include the Rainbow Bright Teen Dance for youth, the Pride Family Carnival for families and children and the Pride Party in White for adults.

“It’s crazy how accepting the community has been,” said Pride Society president JC Rees. “There are so many hard-working, entrepreneurial citizens here and everyone has just been so welcoming and accepting of who you are.”

The local Pride Society was first established in December 2015 and held its first Pride celebrations in June 2016.

“The first year we just had the carnival and the Party in White cocktail show but then one of the number-one complaints we got was that there wasn’t enough for the youth to do,” Rees said. “So, we had the drag queens come and do a teen dance the next year in 2017 and the teens just loved it, so we did it again last year, they loved it again and we’re going to do it again this year.”

The Rainbow Bright Teen Dance kicks off Pride Week with the professional drag show and a live DJ in Howlers Lounge at Grande Prairie Regional College from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday. Pizza and mocktails will be served. Free tickets are available at the door for teen ages 13 to 17.

On Saturday, the Pride Family Carnival will feature bouncy castles, a community alley and food trucks at the Eastlink Centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Gay and Lesbian Association of the Peace (GALAP) will also serve a hot pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. The carnival is free and open families and participants of all ages.

“We’re also going to have circus performers and Stormtroopers there too,” Rees said. “It’s going to be a blast.”

Cody Manning, 6, speaks to 501st Legion Badlands Garrison leader Cpt. Phasma (Teresa Nuthall) while aunt Bren Myette, 17, looks on during the Grande Prairie Pride Society’s Pride Week Family Carnival on Saturday June 24, 2017 at the Grande Prairie Regional College’s parking lot in Grande Prairie, Alta. File Photo

Pride Week then concludes with the adult-only Party in White where attendees dress in white at Madhatters on Saturday night. The event includes cocktails, dancing and a professional drag show. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the drag show lasting from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

As a yearly tradition, the Pride Society also repainted the Pride crosswalk on Tuesday, June 4 near City Hall. In the past, the crosswalk has been the subject of vandalism and criticism on social media. Graffiti was removed from near the crosswalk last fall, while a driver had been charged for damaging the crosswalk with a burnout in July 2018.

“You do get some people complaining,” Rees said. “Actually, we had to pay for the paint and most of paint (work) there was volunteers. We might have one staff member there who was working anyway.”

Rees added that graffiti was typically cleaned up by the next day and praised the city for “stepping up” to ensure that residents were protected.

“Everyone kind of comes together to stop the hate, which is phenomenal because I think it’s way better than it could have been,” Rees said. “In some communities, people were dumping buckets of paint on their rainbow crosswalks. That happened in Lethbridge a couple of years ago. That’s never happened here.”

This year’s LGBTQ Pride Month marks the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall riots occurred at the end of June 1969. Rees noted that LGBTQ activism was still necessary since many countries still criminalize homosexuality or don’t have same-sex marriage.

“The first Pride was a whole bunch of people rebelling against the cops, rebelling against homophobia and now it’s a celebration of how far we’ve come,” Rees said. “But the battle is not over by any means.”

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