The City of Armstrong has kicked off Pride Month in a big way.
The Armstrong Pride Society held its second annual Pride in the Park event Saturday, June 3. People came out in droves to support and celebrate members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Memorial Park.
Numerous organizations set up booths at the event, including Archway Society for Domestic Peace, the Armstrong Food Bank, Armstrong Spallumcheen Climate Action, Essie’s Place, the First Armstrong Scouts, Heartspace Counselling, Shuswap Pride and the North Okanagan Hospice Society.
Joy Ride was on hand playing live music, and there were plenty of activities for the kids, including face painting and bubble blowing. MisMack was also there giving makeup lessons to trans people or anyone who wanted to learn.
The Armstrong Pride Society is in its infancy, but already, co-founder Janine Carscadden has noticed a change in the community.
“I’ve been meeting people over the last year who have said, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I never felt safe to come out. Now I do.’ So it’s massive,” she said.
Carsadden said it’s great to see the whole community out and showing energy for a pride event in town.
“Pride for me is really about accepting people for who they are, allowing people to be free in expressing themselves, not judging people, knowing that as a human community we are on a very broad wide continuum of expression, of gender identity, of sexuality, of all kinds of things,” she said.
Carscadden stressed that Saturday’s event was about more than mere tolerance.
“It means acceptance and celebration, and understanding what the value is in diversity and what we can learn from one another when we open up our minds and our hearts.”
Jim Swingle, executive director of the Family Resource Centre, gave a brief speech at the event. He said a large section of the Resource Centre’s programming is to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“Our mandate is to support families, children, youth with mental health issues, with adjusting in the community, and obviously there’s a big need for that to help trans kids, gay kids, who are trying to make changes and need good information and good affirming support,” he said.
Armstrong Mayor Joe Cramer and Spallumcheen Mayor Christine Fraser both attended the event. Fraser said she thought the event saw a great turnout.
“I think it’s nice that everybody has a chance to come out and express who they are and that they feel included in the community,” she said.
Cramer said he’s talked with the Armstrong Pride Society about initiatives going on around town, such as maintenance of the rainbow sidewalk that was installed last year.
“We have no plans right now to change anything but moving forward in the future we’re here to support the community,” he said.
He said events like Pride in the Park are crucial for people looking to find their voice.
“I think everybody has a voice and everybody needs to have their voice heard, and anything our community can do to support everybody, we’re on board with it.”