This article was published on June 27th, 2019
Yasss Kelowna! Shantay you stay for serving up a delicious pride weekend—and that’s the T-hunty. Kelowna Pride has become one of the fastest growing Pride events in the Pacific North West, drawing in visitors from Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, Calgary, and beyond. What was once an extremely conservative area is blossoming into a LGBT-friendly region. More than just a weekend of Pride festivities, Kelowna is a great holiday destination with beaches, wineries, hiking, golf, mountain biking, and other outdoor adventure. Kelowna Pride is a fabulous, fun-filled gaycation in one of Canada’s hottest destinations!
Kelowna Pride kicked off the queer weekend with the annual Trans March. Over 300 people came out to show their support of the trans community. Participants met at the Kelowna sails in downtown Kelowna, marched down the lake front and to the Laurel Packing House. This was an increase from the 200 people last year. After, a reception followed with sentimental speeches, videos, and poetry, focused on trans rights, coming out stories, and personal experiences. Emotions ran high, with both the presenters and the audience. The entire experience was very powerful.
Friday night saw a packed-house at Sapphire Night Club in downtown Kelowna to see who would win the crown of Kelowna’s Next Drag Super Star. Local drag performers, Daisy Confused, Freida Whales, Alexa Nerezza, GiGi Bangkok, Peter Packer, Valerie Rose, Dora Knob, and Ginger Snapp all competed in the competition. Kelowna’s next Drag Superstar was judged by Sophonda Dick, Brian Mack, Ella Lamoureux, Tina Joslin, and RuPaul’s Drag Race star, Cynthia Lee Fontaine.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine also performed three fabulous and entertaining numbers throughout the evening at Kelowna’s Next Drag Super Star, and after the competition was over, spent the rest of the night mingling with the attendees.
The drama of the Kelowna’s Next Drag Superstar 2019 competition was when Peter Packer, the only drag king in the competition, was disqualified without explaination after it was announced he made the top three. Valerie Rose snatched the crown of Kelowna’s Next Drag Super Star, in a tie-breaking lip-sync finale competition with the Okangan Orca, Freida Whales.
The annual Pride March on Saturday morning was an incredible site to behold. There were well over 8,000 people who attended the rally at Stuart Park in downtown Kelowna. Hosted on the traditional territory of the Syilx First Nations, the Chief welcomed the community to their land and opened the Kelowna Pride March with a welcome prayer. Current Kelowna Mayor, Colin Basran, lovingly known by the Okanagan LGBT community as Mayor Sugar-Plum from when he dressed in drag for the Sugar Plum Ball, proclaimed Pride Week in Kelowna, despite city councillors objecting the Pride flag being flown at City Hall this year. Kelowna has over-come the tarnished days of Mayor Walter Gray, who was a very out-spoken, homophobic mayor of Kelowna.
The Etcetera Youth Group lead the Pride March from Stuart Park, along the Okanagan Lake boardwalk to City Park where the Kelowna Pride Festival was held. There were colorful costumes, Pride flags, and glitter dazzled the march.
The Kelowna Pride Festival was a fabulous, free family event, open to the entire community. According to Kelowna Pride organizers, over 12,000 attended the Kelowna Pride Festival in Kelowna City Park on Saturday afternoon—nearly three times the amount of people as last year. This was a record-breaking year for Kelowna Pride! The increase in numbers are directly attributed to moving the event from August to the traditional Pride month, June, a beautiful sunny day, greater awareness of Kelowna Pride, increased visibility, openness, and programming for the local queer community, and no smoke from forest fires which typically plagues the Okanagan region in late summer. Queer as Funk, a Vancouver-based queer, seven-person band cover band, entertained on the main stage in the late afternoon. Crowds descended on over 50 venders including local LGBT organizations, not-for-profits, local businesses, sponsors, and food trucks. A large beer garden with plenty of quick-serve cocktails, beer, and rose wine.
Kelowna held its inaugural Pride Cruise. Local drag queen, Freida Whales, hosted the sold-out two-hour, 80-person Pride cruise. The cruise went up the Kelowna lake front, over to the westside, over to the William R Bennett floating bridge, and then back to the marina in downtown Kelowna. The Pride Cruise featured drag performances by Freida Whales, Ella Lamoureux, Ginger Snap, and winner of the 2019 Kelowna’s Next Drag Super Star, Valerie Rose, and a jovial limbo competition. At the end of the cruise, the Okanagan Orca, Freida Whales, took a crowd-pleasing swim in Okanagan Lake.
Kelowna Pride week wrapped up with the official closing party, Fruitcake. Hosted on the 3rd floor of the nightclub previously known as Level, Fruitcake: Pride was a completely sold-out event, with people waiting up to an hour to get inside the much-anticipated, popular monthly Kelowna-based event. Dancing, drinking, and total gayety was had by all. DJ Skylar, a Vancouver-based DJ who had the dance floor moving and shaking until 2:00am.
Many prominent Kelowna businesses showed their Pride by decorating and raising Pride flags, including Tourism Kelowna, Kelowna Airport, TD Bank, The Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel, RBC, and the Kanata Hotel. These partnerships helped make Kelowna Pride an extraordinary event. Next summer, plan on coming to Kelowna Pride—a rising star on the Pride circuit.