Sun shines on rainbow walk

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - TIM RUHNKE

It is a colour­ful way to mark in­clu­sion.

The eighth an­nual Pride pa­rade in down­town Brockville took place on Satur­day. The pro­ces­sion and the vendor village that fol­lowed in Hardy Park were among the fi­nal of­fi­cial events of this year’s Brockville Pride Week. The an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of the lo­cal LGBTQ com­mu­nity had be­gun with a fla­grais­ing cer­e­mony be­hind city hall on Mon­day, June 4.

Ryan Northrup, so­cial me­dia and events co-or­di­na­tor with the Brockville Pride or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, said the week was “ex­tremely suc­cess­ful,” with the best over­all turnout in the his­tory of the fes­ti­val.

The noon­time pro­ces­sion on Satur­day formed in front of the Brockville Ar­mouries and made its way west along King Street to St. Paul Street, then con­tin­ued to the park by way of Wa­ter Street. Most of the spec­ta­tors were on the side­walks lin­ing King be­tween the start area and Buell Street.

The com­mit­tee re­ported that 20 groups and ap­prox­i­mately 400 peo­ple took part in the pa­rade, up 150 from the 2017 pro­ces­sion.

Twenty-five or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses par­tic­i­pated in the vendor village, a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from 2017. There was more en­ter­tain­ment this year and visi­tors stayed in the park longer, ac­cord­ing to Northrup.

Brockville Coun. Leigh Bursey, a driv­ing force be­hind the lo­cal ini­tia­tive, pointed out af­ter the pa­rade that it has the high­est per-capita par­tic­i­pa­tion rate in On­tario.

“I’m so proud that so many peo­ple have em­braced it,” said Bursey.

He also noted that Dis­cover Gay On­tario has ranked Brockville as the fourth-best gay-friendly des­ti­na­tion.

Bursey spoke of the com­fort, hu­mil­ity and kind­ness as­so­ci­ated with lo­cal Pride Week and the on­go­ing ef­fort to be in­clu­sive. He re­marked that there is still ‘silent dis­crim­i­na­tion’ in the com­mu­nity in terms of ori­en­ta­tion, adding it is an is­sue 365 days a year.

The pa­rade con­tin­ues to be “re­mark­ably un­der-rep­re­sented” when it comes to dig­ni­taries, he added.

Brockville Mayor David Henderson said it is im­por­tant for in­di­vid­u­als to stand up for and stand with others whose in­ter­ests and be­liefs are dif­fer­ent from their own.

“Ev­ery sin­gle year, peo­ple are a lit­tle more com­fort­able with it,” he said of the an­nual fes­ti­val.

The Miss Brockville Pride show held at the Union Jack Pub on Fri­day night was an­other smash, ac­cord­ing to Northrup. A self­de­scribed “mu­si­cal theatre kid,” Northrup has been per­form­ing in drag as Ophe­lia Upp for about five years. It’s a way to ex­press one’s in­ner self while play­ing a com­pletely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter.

“I want peo­ple to see that I’m out­go­ing,” said Northrup, who added it is dif­fi­cult some­times to do that your­self.

He wants any­one who watched the pa­rade from the sidewalk or be­hind a win­dow to feel com­fort­able enough to join the fes­tiv­i­ties.

“We need to em­power our youth,” said Northrup, who added he hopes there will come a time when there won’t be a need for Pride pa­rades and fes­ti­vals.

Pride Week ap­pre­ci­a­tion cer­tifi­cate re­cip­i­ents rec­og­nized at Hardy Park on Satur­day af­ter­noon in­cluded the City of Brockville, Wall Street United Church, the Brockville Road Run­ners and the Brockville Po­lice Service. The Recorder and Times also re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate.

New to the Pride sched­ule in 2018 was the 5k Rainbow Run held on Satur­day morn­ing be­fore the pa­rade. The week ended with an all-in­clu­sive wor­ship service at Wall Street United on Sun­day morn­ing.

Brockville Pride Week used to be held in July but was moved up this year to co­in­cide with International Pride Month.

Bursey noted that the lo­cal ini­tia­tive does not re­ceive city re­sources, with the ex­cep­tion of a flag; vol­un­teers make the an­nual ini­tia­tive pos­si­ble.

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