Nanaimo Pride Society president Alessandro Iachelli said this year’s Pride Parade will be bigger than last year’s, pictured above. (File photo)

Nanaimo Pride parade happening downtown today

Parade, which starts Sunday, June 9, at noon, part of a full week of events around the city

With the raising of the rainbow flag on June 4, Nanaimo’s Pride Week is now underway.

In the days leading up to the Pride Festival in Maffeo Sutton Park on June 9, the Nanaimo Pride Society is presenting a series of events at venues across the city. Society president Alessandro Iachelli said Pride Week is growing every year.

“People have come to us and said, ‘We’re excited. We want to get involved.’ We’ve had more sponsors this year than before. We’ve also, ourselves, done a lot in terms of reaching out to our own community, but the broader community as well,” he said. “We’ve become members of the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve extended our communications strategy. We’ve got more social media than ever before. We’ve held various events throughout the year that have kind of made people excited.”

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The day after the flag raising the Queer Youth Dance returns to German Hall. The free event is aimed at youths under 19 and will feature performances by Tiara Manila, Misfit and DJ Tre.

On June 6 the Vault Café is hosting Drag Bingo.

“We’ve done it a couple of times this past year. It’s something of a semi-regular event and we’re hoping to do it more regularly next year as well,” Iachelli said. “And that’s an all-ages event as well, so we wanted to try and have something for everybody and kind of family inclusive and more stuff for younger people, too.”

The following day Nanaimo drag queen Vikki Smudge will host the Pride Week edition of the Old City Station Pub’s Laugh Lounge, starring Vancouver comedian Steev Letts.

The 19-plus pride dance follows on June 8. Victoria singer Angela Hehr and her band are returning to headline the event for the second straight year. Iachelli said they invited her back because she was well-received.

Hehr is a veteran of Pride festivals in places like Victoria, Salt Spring Island and Quesnel. She said she’s excited to be back in Nanaimo.

“We’re just stoked to be there,” she said. “My drummer and myself are both queer people so it’s an honour to be asked to take part, in other cities’ especially, Pride events.”

She said she’s seen Victoria Pride grow over time and expects the same to happen in Nanaimo.

“I’ve only had the opportunity to be a part of it for the one year but when people start to jump on board and become more passionate about it, they seem to always grow, which is awesome,” Hehr said. “It is 2019, so it’s time that everybody jumped on board.”

On June 9 the Pride Parade and Festival take place at noon. Iachelli said this year there are more participating groups and vendors. Local rock group the Femme Fatales are headlining the festivities at Maffeo Sutton Park.

Femmes drummer and vocalist Jona Kristinsson is once again curating the event, which will be hosted by Smudge and features performances by children’s entertainer Aunti Bobbi, drag king Adam Lamborghini, drag company Wig Productions, the Cold Cut Trio, rapper Sirreal and singer Raymond Salgado.

“Artists that I picked were somebody that either identifies with that community or had music with a message of hope. For example, we’ll have Sirreal there and the songs that he’s performing are about bullying, because, let’s face it, the LGBTQ community faces a lot of that kind of stuff and they’re not accepted everywhere,” Kristinsson said. “So that was kind of a general theme for me when I was picking the entertainment was that it needs to be inclusive. Everybody needs to feel welcome and accepted.”

WHAT’S ON … Nanaimo Pride Week festivities takes place from June 4 to 9 at multiple Nanaimo venues. The Pride Parade is Sunday, June 9, at noon downtown. For a full list of events and how to get tickets, visit the events section of the Nanaimo Pride Society’s Facebook page.

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