Over 400 local residents flocked to Kinosoo Beach on Saturday to show their support and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, as Lakeland Pride held their first-annual bash at the beach festivities.
Since taking on the responsibility of hosting the annual event from Cold Lake FCSS earlier this year, committee members with Lakeland Pride have been working hard to put on a celebration unlike any other. Speaking to the Nouvelle on Saturday, organization chairman Brent Wallace said he was delighted with how everything came together.
“Lakeland Pride is here today to celebrate diversity, acceptance and love. This isn’t about fighting for rights like it has been down in the States, this is a celebration of our community,” Wallace said. “I’ve been absolutely floored with the response. We’ve had so many people and businesses here today showing their love and showing their support (for the LGBTQ) community.”
He added, “It’s so uplifting knowing that I live in a community that cherishes one another, celebrates difference and really loves and appreciates that difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight or somewhere in between, everyone came out today to have a good time.”
Running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the celebration included live entertainment, a free barbecue and a raffle. Also on hand were several different vendors and booths providing information and free swag to interested locals.
Amongst those was Cold Lake FCSS. Even though the local society handed off the annual celebration to Lakeland Pride this year, they have remained a proud partner and supporter of the event, speaking to those in attendance about the importance of accepting people for who they are.
“We’re here today as a part of our Cold Lake Bully Free campaign to bring awareness and information to people on all the different topics of bullying,” said Melanie Heroux, Community Partnership Facilitator with Cold Lake FCSS. “Unfortunately, LGBTQ are a target for bullying. In today’s society, bullying just isn’t acceptable… There’s zero tolerance for it.”
She added, “We really just wanted to make sure everyone is aware of the issues that happen and to let them know there are supports and resources available within our community.”
With the inaugural Lakeland Pride Festival turning out to be an unwavering success, Wallace said he was already looking forward to organizing several celebrations in the future, something he believes is vitally important for a variety of reasons.
“Today is about fun, but for me personally, it’s about a little more than that. This event is so important for me because eventually, we’re going to be passing the torch down to the next generation,” Wallace said. “This torch is one that has been passed onto us from generations that have bled and died to get equal rights for (LGBTQ people). It’s up to us now and the generations coming to make sure these rights are not taken away.”
He added, “There are still places in the world today where you can be killed for being gay. It’s unbelievable. (We) need to be a shining beacon not just (for our community here in Cold Lake), but across the world to say it’s okay, we’re not any lesser of people (because of our sexual orientation).”
All in all though, Wallace was simply happy to see so many local residents coming out and joining in with the LGBTQ community and having a good time on a beautiful day down at Kinosoo Beach.
“Everything went perfectly, I don’t think we could have hoped for a better response from the community, we couldn’t have asked for a better day in general,” Wallace said. “This has been awesome. It’s totally exceeded my expectations… Rest assured, this is something locals can expect to be around for a long time now.”