Every day is a day for pride in one’s self but this is a special day for the beautiful lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people of our community to stand together in Pride, in celebration, in peace, and out in the open. The days of being closeted for whatever reason are being switched out for the days when the LGBTQ community can celebrate in the park for a barbecue for friendship, food and great music.
Thankfully, the fun and festivities of today’s Pride event are open to all.
Co-organizer Tim Osborne expects that the crowd will be a few hundred strong with people of all ages and all colours of the rainbow too.
“Our goal is to create a family-friendly event that really is a celebration and that’s what it will be,” he stated, noting that it doesn’t matter where people fall on the spectrum. The event is about inclusiveness.
“Everyone’s welcome. That’s the big message.”
The second annual St. Albert Pride barbecue will build on the wonderful goodwill and spirit that began in 2015. This city has seen a lot of growth in the last few years, especially in the formation of groups for members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters. This celebration, Osborne continued, is simply an extension of all of that.
“I think that there have been a number of positive developments in St. Albert. We’ve seen the OutLoud youth group really take off. There’s now a local chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians). We’ve seen that there are more resources and more openness to the LGBTQ community too.”
Even despite the recent tragic news out of Florida last weekend, he and the other organizers and supporters are determined to be resilient and show their courage and solidarity with each other.
What happened had a tremendous impact on many people, he said, and there will likely be some kind of moment to acknowledge it during today’s event as well.
“It just highlights the importance of having these events. It gives people an opportunity for coming together and feel a sense of community, which is important when dealing with situations like what we saw in Orlando. It’s healthy for people to come together and there’s probably some grieving that needs to be done around that. If we can create a safe space for people then that’s something that we’re quite happy to be able to do.”
Dr. Kristopher Wells, the director of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, agrees that Pride has become even more important and powerful as a movement in response.
It’s all about contributing to the kind of community that we all want, he explained.
“This is a chance for us as a community to come together to not only recognize but celebrate the growing diversity that exists,” he began. “We need to have a continued conversation. Pride shouldn’t be about one afternoon. It should be about how do raise visibility? We still have a lot of work to do.”
He referred to the contrast of St. Albert being considered the best small city to live in the country yet it’s where there is an ongoing legal battle over transgender teacher Jan Buterman being fired by the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District, an action that has ripple effects on individuals and institutions across the city and the country.
The ripple effect from St. Albert Pride has a distinctly more uplifting tone. Co-organizer Mia Soetaert said that it shows how the city is moving forward in good ways.
“Back when I was little, I don’t think that something even as simple as a Pride barbecue would have been possible. It makes me really happy that we can do stuff like this here now,” she said, commenting that even though there were only 200 people at last year’s inaugural event, she found the whole experience “incredibly welcoming… and a really empowering moment for the community.”
Osborne also noted that, in addition to the convivial spirit of the gathering, the entertainment should also draw in the masses with lively music and good vibes to show one and all what Pride is all about.
“We’ve got people on stage pretty much the whole way through. We’re pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a good time!”
One of those performers is Aryn McConnell who exclaimed that she was thrilled and honoured to be asked to play her ‘something for everyone’ set list which draws from jazz, classic pop, and musical theatre.
“I am so proud of how accepting Edmonton is of the LGBT+ community, and it’s so heartwarming to know no matter how much hate there is for being a part of the community, there is so much more support and love and it really overpowers the hate.”
3:00-3:30 Aryn McConnell
3:30-4:00 Jake Perry 4:00:4:30 Jessy Mossop
4:30 Ash Halinda
4:45-5:15 We Were Friends
5:15-5:30 Samantha Wiltzen
5:30-6:00 Martha Livingstone
The Pride Barbecue is a free event at Lions Park. Visit www.stalbertpride.ca for more details.