Pride Cape Breton begins week of celebration

Cape Breton’s 14th annual Pride Festival is underway with a newly formed board that will continue the work of its founder.

Pride Parade winds through the streets of Sydney starting at noon Saturday

LGBT supporters fly the Pride flag at the start of celebrations in St. John's, N.L. Cape Breton kicked off its annual festival on Friday. (CBC)

Cape Breton’s 14th annual Pride Festival is underway with a newly formed board that will continue the work of its founder.

The festival began Friday at noon with a flag raising at Sydney's Civic Centre. Organizers say it was the biggest turnout yet for the flag raising ceremony.

The festival continues Friday evening with the Diva Delights Drag Show, followed by the Gender Bender Dance Party.

Saturday at noon, the Pride Parade will weave its way through downtown Sydney. For a full listing of this year's Pride events, click here.

Peter Steele started lobbying for gay rights in Cape Breton nearly 30 years ago and now the longtime festival co-ordinator is handing over the reins to a newly formed board. But that doesn’t mean he stops the work he began.

"When you spend a great deal of your life being told that you're no good, that you're an abomination, that you're mentally sick, you finally get to a point where you know deep down in your side, in your heart and your soul that you are no different than anyone else and you are as equal to everybody else, that brings out a passion that probably nothing else will," he said.

Steele feels it's just time for new blood.

Steele's passion paved the way for others

Those in the community say Steele's passion paved the way for others.

"There's lots going on that he does that has meant so much to me individually," said Julie Lemieux.

"And I'm sure the whole community, he's touched everyone he really has because he's so selfless with it, you can't help but be awed by him really, right? We definitely wouldn't be where we are today without Peter Steele."

Steele says many people have helped along the way and he's overjoyed the island is now so accepting and supportive of the LGBT community.

"I think Cape Breton Island in general is going to truly benefit from the future of what Pride Cape Breton is going to bring to the island," he said. "I feel very comfortable and happy about that."

Organizers say the entire community is welcome to attend all festival activities, including Saturday’s parade. Anyone who hasn't registered can arrive at 11 a.m. and jump right in.