Okanagan Pride Festival attracts huge crowd, signals evolving community

The parade itself brought in an estimated 5,000 people, which is a significant increase from years past.



As thousands of rainbow clad men, women and children marched along Kelowna’s waterfront Saturday morning with arm’s slung around one another, one point was made abundantly clear—love is love.

“We know there are people who are naysayers or are hateful. But on the bulk people are accepting and they know that love is just love,” said Okanagan Pride festival president Sydney Lawson.

“I’m really stubborn and I know hate is not going to win. And I think that’s been shown here and all of our events through the week.”

The sheer volume of Okanaganites who went out to support varying pride events last week were a testament to Lawson’s belief that acceptance of differences is increasingly the norm.

The parade itself brought in an estimated 5,000 people, which is a significant increase from years past. Among the revelers were politicians of varying levels of government.

Mayor Basran issued a pride proclamation, and made a call for greater tolerance within the community. Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin were also in attendance.

Kelowna Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr led the march, and spoke of his government’s support of LBGTQ rights.

And, perhaps getting the most fanfare, Premier Christy Clark marched in the parade. Due to time constraints, Lawson said she didn’t speak to the crowd.

While Lawson stressed that the event wasn’t supposed to be political, the presence of elected officials sets a tone for the community  that is increasingly noticeable.

“You know what, the other day I saw a kid 13 or 14 leave the candy store with his friend, and as they walked out the door they held each other’s hands,” said Lawson. “That touched my heart… To be so young and so confident and feel safe in their community— that is wonderful.”

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