Members of a grassroots initiative hope a day of pride will increase visibility for the local LGBTQ community this month.
Foothills Rainbow Connection is hosting a pride in the park event featuring drag performances, music, a market, drag queens reading youngsters stories about inclusion and crafts with a giant rainbow flag at Ethel Tucker Park Aug. 26 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“We want to bring more visibility to the LGBTQ community in Okotoks,” said event spokesperson Marissa Johnston. “There aren’t very many celebrations for all the diversities out there. I think it’s necessary.”
An after party will follow at the Royal Duke Hotel from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Those interested in VIP treatment can buy $50 tickets to access the private dining room for appetizers and a meet and greet with the day’s performers.
Foothills Rainbow Connection is a grassroots initiative that strives to empower the local LGBTQ community and its allies through increased visibility and awareness.
Johnston said Pride in the Park is the group’s first public event after the organization requested public input to increase visibility around the LGBTQ community in the Foothills. More than 50 responses came back, with the majority favouring a pride in the park event and rainbow bar blitz, she said.
Johnston has attended pride events around the world and said it’s just what Okotoks needs.
“It’s important that everywhere has visibility that represents their entire community,” she said. “We want to bring pride to the Foothills. It’s an awesome place to live. I can walk down the street with my partner and no one cares.”
She understands this may not be everyone’s experience, but said it’s important the community celebrate those moments and connect with those safe places and inclusive people.
Since posting details about pride in the park on social media and in businesses throughout town, Johnston said the response has been overwhelming.
“People are excited,” she said. “That makes me so motivated to make sure this goes off really well.”
Lanice Chep, who will sing and play acoustic guitar at Pride in the Park, considers it a big step for Okotoks.
“In a small town it’s one of those milestones,” they said.
When Chep, who is non-binary (doesn’t identify specifically as male or female), moved to Okotoks for work five years ago, they initially felt isolated.
Chep began to make friends in the LGBTQ community, but there were still challenges.
“When walking down main street with friends I felt like that was a parade,” Chep said. “The community in Okotoks is very small. Not everyone is out.”
Over the years, Chep observed more people accepting the LGBTQ community and is proud to join this month’s pride event.
“I like the fact that it’s not an in-your-face parade that people get upset about,” Chep said. “It will bring in smaller communities and have that spider web effect. I came out when I was 14 and I didn’t have any resources until I was 18. Hopefully others will feel they are not alone.”
Jessica LaViolette is also excited to attend Okotoks’ first pride event after attending others around the world.
LaViolette is a singer/songwriter who was invited to perform her mixture of pop-alterative originals and some cover tunes for pride in the park.
“I think this is important for Okotoks because I know quite a few LGBTQ people,” she said. “It’s a little bit more laid back. That fits the feel for Okotoks.”
For more details about the Foothills Rainbow Connection Pride in the Park festivities go to foothillsrainbow.com