One would never know that the summer pride season is winding down as fun and festivities got turned up at this year’s Kelowna Pride in Kelowna, British Columbia. Love, expression, community, joy, and acceptance were felt as this year’s Pride, when even a dark turn of events wouldn’t prevent folks from showing up and living out and proud.
The Pride weekend began in full swing Thursday night with the annual Trans March. This march saw over 150 people participating, including trans, gay, bisexuals, lesbians, and allies marching together for acceptance and respect. The Trans March went from the iconic Kelowna sails, along the boardwalk, to the Laurel Packing House.
At the Laurel Packing House—a historic building in downtown Kelowna that’s hosted numerous gay events for two decades—three important community speakers came to share their trans stories, including a local 13-year-old local trans person who has spoken at over 500 events, including discussing transgender issues with Canada’s Prime Minster, Justin Trudeau.
The big event Friday evening was full of fierce competition at Kelowna’s Next Drag Super Star. A five-judge panel certainly had their work cut out for them to narrow down the nine candidates to just two at this hilariously fun pageant. Legendary Vancouver drag queen, Raye Sunshine, was part of the judging panel. Raye Sunshine also performed a fantastic drag number, along with Calgary drag queen superstar, Laura Vanity. With the final voting left to a public vote using text messaging, the 2018 winner, Ari Hola, was crowned by the 2017 reigning champion, Ginger Snapp!
The Friday night party Fruitcake: Pride was hosted at Sapphire Nightclub in Kelowna. Great music, a fun crowd, and spectacular drag performances throughout the night by Raye Sunshine and the newly crowded Kelowna’s Next Drag Superstar, Ari Hola made Fruitcake: Pride a great event to kick off the weekend.
Saturday saw more than 500 people from the community join in Stuart Park on the Kelowna boardwalk for the annual Pride March. Local dignitaries kicked off the event and led the march to Waterfront Park. The Kelowna Pride Festival included a live music, over 25 vendors, and a beer garden. It was a bright and colorful celebration that lasted throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Level Nightclub in downtown Kelowna hosted the Pride Wrap-up event featuring DJ / drag queen, Molly Poppins. It was a full house.
Despite all the fun that was had throughout the weekend, the true importance of Kelowna Pride was demonstrated on Friday evening, when one of Kelowna’s prominent drag queens—who wishes to remain anonymous—was attacked on the way home from an event Friday night. While Kelowna is an accepting community, this is an important reminder of why visibility, education, and Pride is important in all communities. Pride festivals around the world are still completely relevant and important for visibility, understanding, and community. Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley is known as a welcoming region to all people from all walks of life, but the events of the attack show there is still much work to be done: onward and upward!
Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley hosted another hugely successful Pride 2018. Kudos to this friendly region for organizing the event, the community partners for their support, and the volunteers for their time. Their contributions are important to putting on these great events.
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