This article was published on September 15th, 2011
Salt Spring Island Pride is not about the latest fashion, headliner DJ’s, big-name entertainers, or political leaders. It’s about a community coming together; a true, grass-roots, Pride festival. People from all walks of society are proud to come together in a safe environment where they can let loose and express themselves freely.
Thursday evening the organizers hosted a panel discussion on international gay rights, followed by the screening of Beyond Gay, the Politics of Pride. It was hosted outside in the vineyard of a local winery.
“The Thursday night Salon was incredible,” said Salt Spring Island Pride Chair, Amy Phillips. “It was the setting, the set-up, and the attendance. The panel members were great and they brought such quality to the event.”
Members from every facet of the Salt Spring community came out to Fulford Hall on Friday evening for Ze Cabaret. From violins, poetry and folk music, to salsa dancing, burlesque and a saw-fiddle performance – the fun evening of eclectic talent from local performers made for a evening the entire room thoroughly enjoyed.
Following the Friday evening variety show was a dance with music by local DJ’s who mashed up 1920’s flapper music with the likes of Rihanna. It was lively but very home-grown, laid back fun.
“There were big expectations for both Thursday and Friday night,” said Amy. “People were glowing with awe and appreciation. Something special happened that [Friday] night. The Cabaret event took on a life of it’s own.”
On Saturday morning the men threw on their dress and wig, the 20-something’s grabbed whatever they could find with a rainbow on it, and the ladies strapped into their corsets – and all together they marched proudly down the street proclaiming Pride on Salt Spring Island.
“The parade route was new for 2011,” Amy explained. The parade halted traffic for an hour along the central street in Ganges village. Hundreds of people lined the streets to see the parade. The parade included support organizations, local politicians (the Green Party’s very own MLA, Elizabeth May, rode in a horse-drawn carriage!), and members of the LGBT community.
“Numbers were down this year,” said Salt Spring Island Pride Chair, Amy Phillips. “Tourism is down on the island in general. Fewer people on the Island turned out for the parade this year.”
Following the parade was Pride in the Park; an afternoon in the park where family and friends could gather and enjoy the beautiful weather, listen to local music and hear speakers talk about issues the trans community still faces.
“Pride in the Park is what kept the events going,” explained Amy. “Folk music and dancing is what people wanted. The trans theme came from a workshop we attended earlier this year. Trans are still not covered under the human rights in Canada.”
Saturday night a Pride Dance was held at Barbs Buns. The venue was ideal – a dance floor inside, a set-bar for quick service of refreshments, and an outdoor patio for fresh air and socializing.
It is evident there is interest on Salt Spring Island for more LGBT gatherings throughout the year. Pride weekend felt like the entire community opened a giant bag of happy and they needed to consume it all at once.
Salt Spring Island is a place where people are comfortable with themselves and accept their neighbours for who they are, not what they are.
As much as the organizers believe their event is about raising awareness of human rights, the people of Salt Spring Island were all happy to join in community events that brought them together, leaving them with a feeling of a greater sense of personal being, pride and acceptance.