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Innisfail Pride arrives this weekend but with a difference

Organizers scale back event celebrating LGBTQ2S+ communities with separate venues with Innisfail RCMP keeping a watchful eye on any potential agitators
The third annual Innisfail Pride celebration is going ahead this weekend on June 23 and 24. The event is scaled back this year with an emphasis on security. Across Canada there has been rising backlashes and protests against LGBTQ2S+ communities, and Innisfail RCMP will be keeping a watchful eye on the local Pride event. File Photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – For the third consecutive year Innisfail Pride will be proudly hosted this weekend during national Pride Month but scaled back amidst a rising and disturbing backlash against LGBTQ2S+ communities across the country.

The local event, which in the past two years was a weekend celebration in one location outside the downtown Coffee Cottage, has been split up into two different venues.

Innisfail Pride will kick off on the evening of Friday, June 23 at an undisclosed location for citizens 18 years of age and older while the second day, billed as a family event, will be held outdoors in the greenspace (Legion Picnic Park) behind the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104.

The Innisfail RCMP, which has met with event organizers, will be ensuring Innisfail Pride, which experienced large and peaceful crowds without any negative incident in both 2021 and 2022, goes ahead this weekend without any unwanted problems.

“We're planning on being there throughout the day,” said Innisfail RCMP Staff Sgt. Ian Ihme. “We'll definitely make our presence known and interacting with people. We just hope it turns out to be a fun event for people to come to.

“Our hope would be that if for whatever reason people don't agree with the events that they just stay home. There's no need to attend if you don't agree with it, right?” added Ihme. “We always hope that people are able to have their events and have their celebrations and not be bothered by others.”

Meanwhile, Dale Dunham, one of Innisfail Pride’s lead organizers, said the two-day event is also being split up because there are “two different audiences” for the annual celebration.

“We wanted to be able to allow the adults in the community to share in the variety shows that we've done in the past with the drag shows, the comedians, the dancers, and things like that,” said Dunham of the Friday event at the undisclosed venue that will cost attendees $15 a ticket. “But then we also wanted to have a family event with appropriate entertainment, performers and content.”

However, Dunham and his co-organizers are mindful that businesses and organizations across Alberta and Canada that have supported Pride events and LGBTQ2S+ communities have encountered backlashes and protests.

He added organizers wanted to ensure this year’s Innisfail Pride celebration is not disrupted in the same way.

“We want to make it fun for everybody. We want to make it safe for everybody,” said Dunham. “We felt that at this point in time the best way would be to keep the Friday night location a secret until the time comes.

“We just wanted to save any backlash leading up to the event for the establishment and for Innisfail Pride itself,” he added. “I take a lot of responsibility for the Pride event and Innisfail Pride Society in general, and these decisions are not made lightly, and they're not made without a lot of thought and a lot of consultation from a lot of people.”

The outdoor family event behind the legion, which begins at noon Saturday and runs until 5 p.m., is free to the public.

The Saturday afternoon outdoor portion of Innisfail Pride will feature a free barbecue, vendor market, and a family Fun Zone.

Special guests include Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay and members of town council, as well as representatives from the Red Deer Native Friendship Society.

Event speakers include Jakob Schiffner, Will Kelful and Chris Vanson.

The afternoon Innisfail Pride will also have a full line-up of musicians, including Kennedy Halwa, Calypso & Kadence, and Turner, Tessa & Amelia Bates.

There will also be drag performances by Nearah Nuff, Angelina Starchild, and Rip Em The Non-Binary Drag Clown.

As for security, Dunham is pleased with the co-operation he and organizers have received from top Town of Innisfail officials.

The Pride organizing committee has also retained private security for the weekend, and Dunham is especially grateful for the cooperation from the local RCMP.

“In the past years they’ve had a presence in some capacity, and this year is not going to be any exception,” said Dunham of the Innisfail RCMP. “They are our allies in this community, and they come out and are represented.

“It's wonderful for kids and everybody of all ages to see that there's an RCMP presence.”

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