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Nanaimo can celebrate Pride month with parade, festival and dances

Pride parade and festival takes place June 9
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Nanaimo Pride Society vice-president Rick Meyers as Vikki Smudge, and the society’s president Lauren Semple as Andi Rogynous during the burger and bevy fundraiser at the Queen’s in mid-March to raise money for the following Pride festivities. (Photo by BHB Photography)

Nanaimo is gearing up for a celebration of colour and LGBTQ love all month long.

Lauren Semple, Nanaimo Pride Society president, said although the city-wide festivities are two years short of a decade, the society is already looking ahead at how it might celebrate the milestone marker, and also reflecting on how much has changed.

“It feels surreal, especially since everything looked so different during the pandemic,” she said. “That was a really big impact to our community’s connectivity and those events … So it doesn’t quite feel like we’re coming up on a decade. But when I look back on it, it’s really amazing to see how the community has grown, how the Pride society has continued to grow.”

This year’s celebration also holds a special significance for Semple, since they’ll be serving as the president again with Rick Meyers as vice-president, when back in 2016 as they were founding Pride Week in Nanaimo, the two would often switch back and forth between the roles.

“It’s really nice to be back at the society with him and doing this great work. I’m excited to continue building over these next years, and I’m already thinking about what a decade celebration will look like in 2026,” she said.

Before the celebrations ‘officially’ start in June, the annual Burger and Bevy event, one of the society’s most successful fundraisers, typically kicks off the efforts for later in the year. This year the fundraiser was held at the Queen’s on Victoria Crescent in mid-March and raised more than $4,500. Semple said the fundraiser is a great opportunity to bring community members and allies together while they put on “one heck of a variety-style” stage show.

The Nanaimo Pride Society hosts four main events during the month, starting with the Pride flag raising ceremony at Nanaimo City Hall on Wallace Street on Tuesday, June 4, at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony will see the Pride month proclamation reading, as well as entertainment, food trucks, informational and educational booths, and a drag queen story time.

Following the flag raising will be All That Glitters: A Sober Pride Celebration at Cavallotti Lodge on Friday, June 7, at 7 p.m., and the 19-plus Get Your Groove On Pride dance at the Bowen Park activity centre on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m.

The pinnacle of Pride Week, the parade through downtown Nanaimo, will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 9, and will follow its usual route down Victoria Crescent, along Commercial Street and Front Street until it reaches Maffeo Sutton Park where the festival will get under way at noon. The festival will have live music, a beer garden, a vendor market, food trucks, and a Kids Zone hosted by the Nanaimo Duncan and District Labour Council. The festival wraps up at 5 p.m.

Additional Pride events happening in the city through June, including a Laugh Out Loud Comedy Show, Queer Art Drop-In Session, Parade Drag Brunch, and screenings of LGBTQ films, can be found online at Nanaimo Pride Society’s pride guide at www.nanaimopride.ca.

Going forward, Semple said their focus with the society will be “to find a balance between the celebration and representation of 2SLGBTQ identities and people, but also the need for advocacy and activism.”

“There is a rising tide of hate, homophobia and transphobia. We’re seeing anti-trans legislation creep into Canada. We’re seeing legislators encroaching on the rights of trans youths and other LGBTQ individuals,” she said. “And there’s definitely a need for allies to stand in stronger solidarity with the community and for us to continue to push back and fight to ensure that we have an equitable and safe community for all.”

READ MORE: Ladysmith holding its first-ever Pride celebration



Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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