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Innisfail Pride proudly overcomes big test

Third annual Innisfail Pride event peacefully braves small contingent of opposition as hundreds celebrate free afternoon festival with music, dance, barbecue and fellowship

INNISFAIL – Following an intense afternoon that included a physically draining five and a half hours of blistering heat and sunshine, Dale Dunham still mustered enough energy to offer a broad and heartfelt smile.

Facing its first ever test, the 2023 Innisfail Pride celebration for the town and the local and regional LGBTQ2S+ communities, turned out to be a resounding success, and one filled with hundreds of smiles.

“I think just by us sitting here right now talking and listening to the background where kids and everybody are clapping their hands and enjoying themselves, that for me is just people having fun, enjoying themselves and appreciating the community they live in,” said Dunham, a co-organizer of Innisfail Pride since its inception in 2021.

“I think it's brilliant and nothing is tarnished this day.”

The two-day 2023 Innisfail Pride celebration on June 23 and 24 was organized amidst growing concerns over increasing and disturbing backlashes against LGBTQ2S+ communities across the country.

The local celebration was scaled back to a pair of events in separate venues.

The first was held inside in the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 for attendees 18 years of age and older, and not publicly announced until after the event.

The event’s second day on June 24 was held outdoors at the Legion Picnic Park, as it was in 2021 and 2022, and was created for community citizens of all ages and was publicly announced beforehand.

The outdoor event on June 24 ran from noon to 5:30 p.m.; a free outing that saw an estimated 350 citizens enjoy music, entertainment, a free barbecue, speeches, many children activities and peaceful fellowship between LGBTQ2S+ citizens and everyday Innisfailians who just wanted to be part of a proven successful local event.

As for security, a pair of congenial Innisfail RCMP officers continuously interacted with attendees, which was appreciated by event organizers.

“I think it was just wonderful they were here showing they're allies, and that they were a part of their community, as opposed to just a presence standing outside walking around the fence,” said Dunham, noting there was also private security assisting police. “It was very impressive. It just made people feel safe.”

There were about a dozen citizens opposing the event who also showed up. They were mostly outside the event perimeter, and peaceful.

“It's to protect children. They're being irreparably harmed. This is child endangerment. It needs to stop,” said Penhold resident Brandon Pringle waving a “God Bless the Child” sign.

Penhold town councillor Shawn Hamm said he attended as it was his “mandate” to share the love of Jesus Christ.

“I'm honored to be a town councillor for the Town of Penhold but I'm a pastor first,” said Hamm. “I'm here to show the love of Jesus at the event, right here and to speak truth.

“I believe what the Bible says,” he added. “The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, and it's an abomination to the Lord, and so that's what I stand on.”

Nevertheless, Innisfail’s Pride event had the full support from every member of Innisfail town council.

Mayor Jean Barclay officially opened it with council members by saying they would not waver from their support for Innisfail Pride.

“There's been some information in the past several days that there could be some disruption from protesters today, but I can assure you that council is not deterred, and we didn't waver,” Barclay told the crowd to applause. “As an organization we have been through this before, and like today, love will win, because that's who this community is, always.”

Red Deerian Jace Littke came to Innisfail Pride with his two dogs, Weyland and Princess Pinecone. He identifies himself as a trans citizen who has previously attended Calgary Pride events.

Littke said it was important to show support for Pride events in smaller communities, like Innisfail.

“In a small community it’s an opportunity for people to experience this and see how fun and wonderful these communities are, and to be able to show we're not going to be erased from the world, and we're here to stay,” said Littke. “We're not here to harm people. We're just here to enjoy life and live our best lives.”


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