Last year’s ArtsWells Festival Opening Parade had a Carnival theme. This year’s parade, which will take place Aug. 2, will be a Rainbow Parade celebrating diversity and inclusion and will include the Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George Pride associations. Photo courtesy of Mary Matheson

Cariboo Pride organizations will join ArtsWells for Rainbow Parade

Island Mountain Arts is working with three area Pride associations for festival’s opening parade

ArtsWells has always kicked off the four-day festival with a parade, but this year’s parade will be extra colourful and extra inclusive.

Island Mountain Arts (IMA) is collaborating with the Quesnel, Prince George and Williams Lake Pride associations to present the 2019 ArtsWells Opening Parade.

“Last year, the parade witnessed an extraordinary moment when a real rainbow appeared in the sky, reinforcing the values of diversity and celebration that the parade has always embodied,” IMA wrote in a press release announcing the collaboration. “ArtsWells and its Pride partners want to welcome everyone under the rainbow this year with a Rainbow Parade of epic Pride proportions.”

Evie Lavers of Island Mountain Arts says ArtsWells has featured an Opening Parade every year, and last year’s parade had more of a carnival theme, with lots of clowns.

This year, as part of the festival’s focus on inclusion and diversity, Lavers decided to reach out to the Pride associations in this region about working together.

“I thought it was a great way to get together,” she said. “It’s really lovely to get the other Pride associations as well. I’m excited to bring them all together and for us to do it together as a community.”

Lavers says when she spoke to the other Pride organizations, they spoke about how expensive it is to go to Vancouver to celebrate Pride, and it costs businesses so much to make a float. In Wells, you are your own float, and there is no entry fee.

“Everyone is encouraged to get dressed up and join us,” said Lavers. “It’s a walking parade, and a lot of people make their own puppets, we have walking puppets, and the Barkerville interpreters get involved. It’s a real celebration to kick off the event. It’s beautiful because you can hear it. The musical instruments are playing. We had something like 10 trumpets last year. The band starts playing, and everyone joins in.”

Lavers says the Rainbow Parade reinforces the idea that ArtsWells is for everyone.

“At this year’s festival, there’s a strong push for diversity with the lineup,” she noted.

The ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art Opening Parade has been a colourful tradition since the very first year of the festival, always welcoming everyone from the community to join the fun.

“Both young and old are invited to join the ArtsWells festival community in a celebration of Canada’s amazingly diverse and talented LGBTQ artists and performers, as well as all our favourite festival friends and family in the beautiful town of Wells,” IMA states in the press release.

“This Rainbow Parade is an opportunity for our Cariboo community to kick off this wonderful weekend with festival flair and to ensure everyone feels welcome.”

Anyone who wants to be part of the Rainbow Parade is encouraged to slip on whatever outfit they’d like and bring a musical instrument to join in with the band.

In preparation for the Rainbow Parade, children’s entertainer Al Simmons, a popular ArtsWells performer, will be on hand earlier in the day to offer a workshop to help anyone who is interested in being part of the parade make their own instrument.

The ArtsWells Festival Rainbow Parade, which will take place Friday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m., is a free event. There is no entry feet, no need to create a float and no age limit.

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