Cultivating an inclusive community for all for several years is a great reason for St. Albert’s LGBTQ+ citizens and their friends and allies to host one big party in the park. Lions Park that is.
Saturday marks the fourth annual St. Albert Pride barbecue, an event that ultimately will never be as big as Edmonton’s Pride Festival. Then again, going big was never part of the big plan.
“We’re never in the mindset of creating a big movement or anything. We just want people to accept people for who they are,” said Terry Soetaert, co-organizer of the event and the city’s OutLoud, OutLoud Jr and PFLAG groups. ““That’s one of the things that we really want to stay away from. Pride Edmonton is amazing. We go to it as well. We support a lot of the things that are in there.”
The city raised the rainbow flag again last week as it has done every year since 2014. While Terry and his daughter Mia Soetaert both remark on how much progress has been made in terms of its acceptance of anyone of any orientation, they both say that there’s still much to accomplish. This was the first time that they and members of the groups participated in the Rainmaker Rodeo Parade with their first ever float. Mia said that many people were supportive while others snubbed them when they approached.
“We’ve come a long way,” Mia began. “We have a lot of people that are awesome and amazing and accepting. At the parade, there were so many people who were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s so exciting to see you at the parade’ but then other people sneered and looked away from us.”
It took Mia’s coming out to spark her parents to become more organized and work to offer the groups to support others through the groups. One of the fantastic consequences of that was the start of St. Albert Pride. Every year, hundreds of people come together to celebrate life and diversity through at Lions Park.
It’s more than just family-friendly entertainment (including facepainting and performers courtesy of Innovations Music) and free hot dogs and booths with goods for sale and information to dispense, although there is no way to overstate the importance of resources from organizations like schools, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the City of St. Albert, and the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.
“People like the resources that they’re getting but mostly it’s about just the support that St. Albert is inclusive and is open to – for the most part – to the LGBTQ community,” Terry said.
“It’s a celebration of how accepting we are as a city. We’re getting there slowly but surely. It’s really nice to see that every year we have more and more people show up. It’s so exciting for me to see how strong our kids feel that day, and how proud I am of everyone who has helped put the festival together. It’s a very exciting day for us,” Mia said.
The St. Albert Pride barbecue runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday at Lions Park. Attendance is free. Visit www.stalbertpride.ca for more information.