Citizens show their true colours
Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017 06:00 am
For an afternoon last weekend, Foothills residents felt free to be themselves without worrying what others might say or do.
More than 1,000 people showed support for the LGBTQ community at the inaugural Pride in the Park event in Okotoks’ Ethel Tucker Park on Saturday.
“I think it’s very important to come out and show support,” said Michelle Parker of High River, who attended the event with her family. “I want my kids and any other kids to feel they are accepted for who they are. It’s something I think is important.”
Shannon MacPherson roamed through the park wearing a rainbow cape and blue lipstick, feeling pride in her sexual orientation.
“There was nothing like this when I was younger,” she said. “It’s heartwarming for me and it’s great to feel a part of it. I think it’s just awesome.”
MacPherson said she enjoyed seeing so many people checking out the various booths and enjoying music performed by members of the local LGBTQ community.
“It’s nice to see so many people,” she said. “It feels very safe. Walking around in a rainbow cape, I couldn’t do that down the street.”
One of the event’s supporters was the Okotoks United Church, which had members handing out cupcakes and applying temporary tattoos with rainbow hearts and happy faces.
“I believe in equality, I believe in inclusion,” said Janet Page, a volunteer with the church. “We are all here to celebrate.”
Page said she is proud to support Pride in the Park and would like to see it become an annual event in Okotoks.
High River resident David Poudrier was also proud to show his support, sporting sparkles in his hair to the delight of his children.
“It’s important that everybody has safe spaces, a place where you can be yourself without harassment,” he said.
Foothills Rainbow Connection, a grassroots initiative that strives to empower the local LGBTQ community and its allies through increased visibility and awareness, organized Pride in the Park.
Spokesperson Marissa Johnston said she never expected the event to be as big as it was.
“It went beyond my expectations,” she said. “I expected it to be half the size it was. It just doubled and tripled. I could not be more proud.”
The range of people who showed their support was wide, from drag queens to families with small children.
“There was no demographic that was represented more than another,” Johnston said. “Lots of people felt free to be themselves.”
Johnston said the feedback she received during and after Pride in the Park was nothing but positive.
“We’ve got 30 emails since Saturday saying, ‘thank you’ and ‘I want to help’ and ‘How can I get involved?’” she said. “What I had hoped for Okotoks is coming true. The Okotoks I want to see as an inclusive community is pretty close.”
Johnston and her partner Stephanie Acton plan to hold more Pride in the Park events in Okotoks and other interested communities, as well as activities for the LGBTQ community like coffee events and rainbow blitzes in local bars.
For more details about the Foothills Rainbow Connection or to connect with Johnston or Acton go to foothillsrainbow.com