You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.
The 2023 Pride Parade started at City Hall and proceeded down the streets of Quesnel in full spectrum, even though some precipitation made those streets wet. It just showed the commitment of those in attendance to achieve a local culture of inclusion and equality.
“We had a great turnout and it really didn’t even matter if it was going to rain on our parade,” said Julia Dillabough, president of the Quesnel Pride Society. “The community gathered with positive, enthusiastic energy. Councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg gave the parade a wonderful send off. RCMP Const. Nutley led the parade along with City bylaw officers pulling up the flanks. Const. Nutley would screech the sirens with roars from the crowd to follow. Allies were cheering the parade from the sidewalks and the businesses along the route were also standing in storefronts cheering on the parade.”
The parade was set to end in LeBourdais Park, but the Quesnel Pride Society board of directors had to make an early morning decision to move the 18 vendors from the park into Arena 2 so the event could be enjoyed without the rain interfering. Everything went ahead as usual, just with that small detour to the indoors.
“My favourite part of the parade is when we turn up Shephard Ave. and to look back at the parade along Reid Street,” said Dillabough. “It is like seeing this sea of colour, smiling faces, laughing, cheering, dancing, people being so happy to be who they are and to feel the camaraderie as we share in our similarities. You truly see the power in numbers and since 2015 the sea of positivity has just kept growing in Quesnel.”
Elder Luna Ildzi from Lhtako Dene Nation gave a blessing to the Pride weekend events. Dillabough said Ildzi spoke about the traditions of the 2-Spirited people known of and accepted in local Indigenous culture, “and the sacred role that they hold in the Indigenous communities. It was a very touching moment for many, and one I will personally cherish.”
There were worries that hate- or ignorance-based incidents may occur during the events. Communities across Canada braced for this. In Quesnel, though, despite some warnings prior to the parade, only one person chose to shout hateful comments from a vehicle, and that “was very quickly diffused by the RCMP,” said Dillabough. Organizers were appreciative of West Fraser Timber sponsoring some extra security for additional safety.
Love and knowledge were the tactics Pride organizers would always be encouraged to use when hate emerges towards the LGBTQIA2+ community anywhere, anytime.
Most Pride events were held June 10, but there was also a well attended June 7 youth event. Dillabough said it was “wonderful to see the youth laughing, mingling with others and getting to know new friends,” at this event sponsored by Telus for Youth Safe Spaces.
“Our adult only event was a smashing hit,” Dillabough said. “(Drag queen) Freida Whales and crew rolled into town and tag-teamed the event alongside Anita B Naughty from the Foxxie Follies Burlesque Troupe. That was followed up with dancing the night away to our B.C.’s own DJ Riki Rocket.”
Craig’s Table provided a great meal and large raffle baskets provided by many sponsors from our amazing business community.
“Freida and crew were astounded by the show of support that Quesnel provided to her, back from the situation surrounding our last City Hall engagement,” said Dillabough, referring to anti-Freida pamphlets that were spread about parts of the city. “Freida was also presented a trophy by the Quesnel Pride Society for The Most Courageous Queen Award for her continued engagement to combat hate against the queer community.
“We could not have asked for a better weekend and we are already thinking about what we can do for safe spaces leading up to next year.”