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PrideFest Turns 10!

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In June 2017 a local group of of about a half dozen University of Lethbridge athletes and citizens spent their Friday night and Saturday morning guarding the newly re-painted Lethbridge Pride and Transgender crosswalks that had been vandalized in downtown Lethbridge.

At the time, Peter Millman said guarding the area before the parade was something he and his friends wanted to do, to make sure the celebrations weren’t marred. Millman said, “The last thing we wanted everyone to wake up to, is another disappointment on the day of Pride. If us sitting out here overnight is a bit of a deterrent, then it’s the least we can do I guess. Hopefully everybody will have a really happy Pride today.” Millman and company’s community-spirit made a difference in 2017.

Many of us remember growing up “pre-Pride” in a time and place when Lesbian Gay Transgendered Bisexual and Queer (LGTBQ) experience was a deeply misunderstood culture. What some may not know is LGTBQ have a long history and tradition of not only civil rights involvement but also a tradition of festivity. The LGTBQ community have thrown isolated yet great get-togethers for generations. Today’s LGTBQ community invites everyone to their biggest party of the year.

Now everyone in Lethbridge is welcome to celebrate with neighbours. 2018 is Lethbridge PrideFest’s 10th anniversary. Mickey Wilson LGTBQ activist and one of the founding organizers of Lethbridge Pride shared stories about his trans-rights trailblazing and speaks so eloquently about his son, his journey and his faith that brought him to Lethbridge.

Mickey remembers, “There had been a Pride Picnic Day for a number of years at Pavan Park. I was invited to the planning committee and meeting for that in 2007 I think it was. I challenged the committee with respect to what Pride was about and suggested it should be in Galt gardens. The young people responded with excitement and were on board right away. The older folks expressed fear and uncertainty.” Mickey says, “Eventually the exuberance pushed the idea forward and the planning began. The first year was a flag raising with (then) Councillor Dodic speaking and [it was followed by] a picnic in the park with (a) drag (show)! There was a community dance, church service and BBQ. With only one sponsor, Barefoot Wines, and a group of amazing volunteers, we had over 1000 attendees at the collective events. It was a success." 

When asked what stands out as a memory for him, Mickey says, “The flag raising at City Hall [in 2008] was a powerful
event. Each year the event grew in popularity and attendance. A [Pride] float (Mickey’s decorated pick up) was entered in the Whoop-Up Days Parade that same year. A brave step into community engagement. I was very proud to be part of that first public Pride celebration.”

Current PrideFest Board Chair Devon Hargreaves and PrideFest Treasurer Derrick Antson reflect on the modest beginnings of Pride in Lethbridge. “It was truly word-of-mouth and publications like Dave Mabel’s The GALA (Gay and Lesbian Association) Occasion, a simple print publication, that helped keep the community connected.” Devon and Derrick represent the youthful exuberance that ignited Lethbridge Pride a decade ago.

The Lethbrige PrideFest Society works year-round, and their efforts culminate in nine days of Pride June 15th - June 23th, 2018. The event will feature over 50 events and not one but two stages for entertainment in Galt Gardens on parade day; a food truck alley, many vendors, contests showcasing the best decorated local business windows and the travelling Pride Sign (an art work that pays homage to the iconic Hollywood sign). 2018 strives to champion and reflect Two-Spirit First Nations inclusion of as well.

Devon and Derrick sang the praises of Lethbridge City Council “[City Council] have been great to work with. They show openness and have come a long way in a short time”. Lethbridge is a leader as the first municipality in Canada to have Pride Crosswalks approved by City Council. Other communities look to Lethbridge as a model. Lethbridge PrideFest fulfills a role of being an active ally to communities in the region. Both Stand-Off and Cardston have looked to Lethbridge as a role-model.
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