INNISFAIL – For local business owner Dale Dunham a critically important component of his professional and personal journey is supporting today’s youth.
Last year, he and his partner Shaun Steen spearheaded Innisfail’s first-ever Innisfail Pride event on June 26 outside their downtown business, The Coffee Cottage.
Despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the one-day event was a resounding success, attracting the maximum 150 attendees allowed by 2021 provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
“Seeing their faces. Seeing them connecting. Seeing them enjoying themselves,” said Dunham, noting organizers had to turn away up to 200 people last year due to capacity limits. “If that wasn’t reward enough to acknowledge its success it was the months afterwards from the people in the community coming up and thanking us.
“For a lot of them it was the first time they were at a Pride event, and saying just how wonderful it was and how proud they were to be part of a community that would engage in it and be more accepting.”
Plans for Innisfail Pride 2022 are already in full motion. This year the event is increasing from one day to two on June 25 and 26.
It will also have an expanded outdoor footprint. Most importantly, it will be staged with a realistic expectation that attendance will more than double.
The theme for Innisfail Pride 2022 is Love is Love.
“There is love in the air. Everybody is happy. There are no bad vibes at all,” said Cindy Bee, the chair of the organizing committee, which includes Dunham, Steen, vice-chair Riki Findley and secretary Barb Dixon. “It’s so enlightening and wonderful for so many people. There is no way you can have a bad time.”
Most of all, organizers proudly maintain Innisfail Pride 2022 is an event designed for the entire community.
“It’s a community of inclusiveness. There’s no judgment,” said Bee. “Everybody is welcome, not matter your gender, sexuality or culture. It’s something where everybody is welcome, and somewhere where they will never be judged.”
This year’s two-day Innisfail Pride will begin at 2 p.m. on June 25 with opening remarks and a land acknowledgement from Cree elder Maggie Loney.
The day will be attended by representatives from town council and the Innisfail Welcoming & Inclusive Community Committee.
There will be guest speakers, entertainment, food trucks, and topped off in the evening with a drag show, which will run until 11 p.m.
The following Sunday is billed as a day for families. Beginning at noon and running until 5 p.m., there will be music, more speakers, a free family barbecue, kids games and promised carnival fun.
Last year’s inaugural Pride was a hugely costly mission for Dunham and Steen but it was a lesson learnt.
In 2021 there was no charge to attend. However, this year there will likely be a “nominal” fee of about $5 to attend Pride on Saturday, while Sunday will be free.
To help support event costs, the non-profit endeavour is holding a fundraiser on Sunday, May 1 called Tea with Queens. The event at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre has an afternoon and evening show.
It was immediately seized by the public.
“We sold out the first (afternoon) show before our tickets went on sale,” said Bee, adding the evening show is now at least 75 per cent sold out.
The financial support from the shows’ proceeds will help with the extra costs this year. Due to the success of last year more room was imperative.
Organizers said attendance of up to 400 is a realistic figure, as they are reaching out to representatives from other LGBTQ communities in the region and beyond, including the Central Alberta Pride Society in Red Deer, as well as those in Calgary and Edmonton.
Innisfail Pride 2022 is being expanded beyond the back parking lot of The Coffee Cottage, and that will require fencing. The Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion has granted the organizing committee permission to use the park off 53rd Street and part of its parking lot, said Dunham.
He noted last year’s event was held amidst stifling heat and the trees in the park will make it cooler for attendees. He added there will also be spray misters if the weather is once again unbearably hot.
However, both Dunham and Bee believe the weather won’t be a deciding factor on a day that is being painstakingly planned for fun and families, along with an educational component.
“There’s not really anything missing,” said Bee. “There’s something there for everybody if they choose to be there, and if they choose to listen.”