Robert Labonte

Robert Labonte

Nanaimo Pride celebrates week of events

NANAIMO – Events planned throughout Nanaimo Pride week designed to give everyone a chance to feel welcome.

Since 2003, Nanaimo Pride Week featured events that allow everyone int the city to feel welcome and accepted.

This year Nanaimo’s gay and lesbian community is celebrating the 11th anniversary of the city’s first proclamation of Nanaimo Pride Week from June 16-22.

“It’s just to bring the community together to express ourselves and to have some fun – and if we don’t do it who will?” said Jay Gatley, Nanaimo pride spokesman.

Ron Labonte, Nanaimo Pride president, said the week of events is also a way for Canadians to exercise and express their rights and freedoms.

This year’s Nanaimo Pride Week events start with Pride Picnic in the Park at the Bowen Park lower shelter Sunday (June 16) 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hot dogs, pop, chips, cookies, coffee and other snacks will be on hand, plus children’s activities including games and a duck race.

Bring lawn chairs and blankets, Frisbees, guitars and anything else that goes with a picnic in the park.

“This year we have the Bayview Elementary kids coming,” Gatley said. “They’re going to be doing Native drumming and dancing. It should be a good show.”

The children will perform from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

“We have a duck race we do every year and that’s always fun,” Gatley said. “Somebody usually gets wet. We have about 50 ducks and we put them in and see who wins. There are prizes at the end.”

The 10th anniversary of the proclamation happens at Nanaimo City Hall with the raising of the pride flag at 6:15 p.m. Monday (June 17).

The ceremony includes guest speakers, a presentation about the history of pride in Nanaimo and songs. There will be a small march to Bocca Cafe on Fitzwilliam Street for coffee and cake afterward.

Wednesday (June 19) is bowling night at Brechin Lanes on Wellington Road starting at 7 p.m. Cost is $10 for two games plus shoe rental. There are rises for best and worst games and everyone is welcome.

AVI Movie Night happens at Nanaimo Centre Stage with a 7 p.m. screening of How to Survive the Plague.

The Pride Dance is being hosted at Pleasant Valley Hall Saturday (June 22) 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Reserve tickets are $15.

Loabonte said the events and Nanaimo Pride Committee are important because they are there to make everyone feel welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“That’s the big thing, to be able to get out in the community and let people know we’re here and let them know they do have somebody they can talk to because we handle the gay, the lesbian and the transgenders and so on,” Labonte said. “We try to steer them to the right agencies.”

Labonte said the organization also supports other groups and events, such as the Aids Walk and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes for Haven House.

“Everybody has to have a best gay friend,” Gatley said. “Otherwise they don’t dress very well. We’re out there and we’re proud of who we are.”

For information about Nanaimo Pride Week and events, please visit the Nanaimo Pride website at www.nanaimopride.org.