Nanaimo Pride Society members Nic Carper, treasurer, AJ Macleod, vice-president, Lauren Semple, president and Vanessa Purdy, secretary, are ready to get the party started. Pride week begins Tuesday, June 5. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Nanaimo to show its colours as Pride Week kicks off

Organizers expect 10,000 people to mark five-day celebration

Rain or shine, Nanaimo will be all rainbows this week as the city kicks off its pride parade and festival celebration.

Nanaimo’s week-long pride party runs June 5-9, with an event lineup that includes a new inclusive swim, a flag-raising at city hall and a pride parade and festival.

The celebration drew about 10,000 people last year, and organizers expect the same turnout with visitors from as far away as Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

“We hear a lot of feedback that it has a nice community feel to it, there’s a lot of love, a lot of spirit in Nanaimo and people sometimes prefer almost that small-town feel that we can give to our Pride Week celebration that you don’t get in Vancouver,” said pride society president Lauren Semple.

This year’s theme is ‘united through diversity,’ which Semple said is about celebrating that the strength as a community and as LGBTQ comes from diversity, different sexual orientations, gender identities, lived experiences and ages.

Spectators can expect a festive downtown when the third annual Nanaimo Pride Parade and Festival takes place with people marching, dancing and driving from Victoria Road, along Commercial Street to Front Street and Maffeo Sutton Park.

Pride society treasurer Vanessa Purdy says there’s the excitement of checking out what people are wearing because so many people get decked out in different ways, while A.J. Macleod, vice-president, called the vibe incredible with much energy and fun.

The celebration is expected to salute the efforts of the past while also recognizing the work yet to do, such as around gender rights and acceptance.

“It’s been great,” said Semple of how far the city has come, later noting there was a time when a flag didn’t go up at city hall and mayor and council did not support pride week. “It’s part of what we’re celebrating this year is the work done by our forerunners and the foundation laid and the years of fight that they went through here in Nanaimo to get us to where we are and also celebrating the future work that still has to be done.”

Editorial: Pride week is more than a parade and a party

Macleod told the News Bulletin the event is about honouring the people who’ve paved the way, but “it’s also about honouring the freedom I have to be out and be who I want to be and living in a country, a town and a city where I can do that because a lot of the people in the world are still fighting for that freedom and they don’t have it.

“The fact we do and we can celebrate that and we can honour people, I think it’s really important we do that for visibility purposes, so that we can help it change not just locally but globally.”

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A new and free inclusive swim at Beban Park kicks off festivities June 5. Gender will be removed from change room doors and facilities and staff will be trained on gender-affirming customer service. A flag raising happens at city hall June 6, a youth dance happens June 7 at the German Hall, and a 19-plus dance, featuring Ange Hehr, will be at the Bowen Park activity centre June 8. For more on the entertainment lineup, click here.

The parade is at noon June 9 with a family festival at Maffeo Sutton Park to follow. An official after-party starts at 10 p.m. at Evolve Nightclub.

The city plans to give the multi-coloured intersection at Commercial and Bastion streets a refresh in time for the celebrations.

For event details, see

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