As Kootenay Pride prepares for it’s 16th annual festivities this weekend, Kootenay Pride president Jason Peil says this year is a celebration and thank you to the community.
“In the past, it may have been necessary to have pride in protest,” he said. “There was a time when pride meant carving a space to have a safe space to be out together and comfortable in your own community.”
This year marks the first year for Castlegar’s pride events, and while it may have been met by some opposition, Peil said it is a small but loud minority.
“Really Kootenay Pride is a thank you and a celebration for how amazing our community is and what a great place where you can live and work and be proud and open about yourself. In this community and in general you are faced with nothing but acceptance,” he said.
“These events should be for everyone. The whole community should be proud here in this place that we come together and accept. We have diversity and we have tolerance for each other. This is really not a protest, but a welcoming and a thank you.”
In addition to the Castlegar event, Kootenay Pride is unveiling a lot of new festivities to celebrate its 16th year.
“One of the big things is the reading of the play 8 by Dustin Lance Black,” said Peil. “That is the guy who wrote the story of Harvey Milk and that movie Milk. Milk was originally a play, and this production of 8 might turn out to be a play too.”
In many of the readings throughout the US, actors such as Morgan Freeman have participated in the readings.
“Even Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger did a reading of it as himself,” said Peil. “It’s a very interesting piece and we’re really lucky to have it included in pride this year. That was entirely motivated by Michael Graham at the Capitol Theatre. Mayor [John] Dooley is going to be in it along with Michelle Mungall, so we have some of our own local dignitaries playing similar roles to what their characters are in the play.”
The organizers are also inviting the public to the word slam music jam on Saturday night at The Express.
“People can just come in, sit down and enjoy,” said Peil. “It’s a pretty accepting and inclusive atmosphere. That is something that we want to promote for youth and seniors and anybody else.”
The word slam music jam will be a coffee house-style poetry night including live music.
Kootenay Pride has also changed its annual rally, moving away from traditional ideas of political rallies.
“Our rally this year ought to be quite a change from previous rallies,” said Peil. “If anyone has ever attended a rally before and thought ‘Gee, there’s a lot of politicians and nothing else going on,’ we’ve really changed that around. We still have the politicians, but we are limiting them.”
The rally — which takes place at Cottonwood Park — will be hosted by Vancouver-based comedian and drag queen Conni Smudge who will also be hosting an impromptu drag competitions. Smudge will also be joined by other performers and a live DJ.
The traditional pride parade on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Nelson’s downtown has also seen a revamp with more organizations joining the festivities than ever before.
For more information about the Kootenay Pride events and to see a schedule visit issuu.com/v-rag/docs/kootenayprideguide?mode=window&backgroundColor#222222.