N.S. community moves first Pride festival online
'I think it's going to have a really good impact on people here'
The provincial borders may be closed, but an Acadian community in Nova Scotia is welcoming people from around the world — virtually — during its first Pride Week.
Fierté CLARE Pride runs June 8-12 and will be streamed to keep in line with public health rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's really amazing, and it's a big move for us to do this," said Tristan MacAlpine, an organizing committee member and social work student at nearby Université Sainte-Anne.
"We're making history."
As a young gay man who grew up in Clare, about 200 kilometres from Halifax, MacAlpine said he loves living in a rural area where everyone feels like a big family.
The events include a flag raising, drag makeup workshop, talks on diversity and dance parties. They will all be streamed via the Pride event's Facebook page.
A small community with a 'big voice'
It's vital to have events like this in rural areas to educate people about what Pride is really about and raise awareness of the LGBTQ community, he said.
"I think it's going to have a really good impact on people here," MacAlpine said.
"It's going to educate many people on what's really going on in the world, and how it's very important to be yourself."
MacAlpine added one of the benefits of going online with the event is it can reach "so many more people" outside of Clare. He's even seen posts linking the event to forums about international Pride festivals.
Although MacAlpine's often asked why he hasn't moved to a bigger city with more opportunities, he sees "so many good things" happening in his community and loves being one of the people contributing to that change.
"The (LGBTQ) community here is quite small, but I think that's amazing as well because we do have a big voice," he said.
The event is a partnership between the Municipality of Clare, la Société acadienne de Clare, Université Sainte-Anne, the Enchanté Network and Rising Youth.
How the Pride festival began
The full festival was ignited through last year's Pride flag raising, said Natalie Robichaud, Fierté CLARE Pride organizing member and executive director of la Société acadienne de Clare.
Robichaud said the May 2019 flag raising that her organization hosted was the first one for the municipality, and she was surprised by the "overwhelming" messages of support they received from the community.
After that, MacAlpine approached Robichaud last November and they began brainstorming possible events. By February, Robichaud said they had a solid plan for Pride, but then the pandemic happened.
Although countless festivals across Canada and the world have been cancelled or postponed this summer, Robichaud said there's no better time to host a virtual event since everyone is home behind their computers anyway.
Also, their area has so many ties to New Brunswick and French communities in Quebec and Louisiana, so this is a great way for people to take part from a distance, she said.
What former residents are saying
Robichaud said it's also been interesting to hear from many who have left the area who might not have felt welcome there in the past.
"People from the LGBTQ community … are in disbelief this is finally happening," she said.
"It's been really great to hear from those people and give them a sense of pride [in] their own community."
Clare is following the lead of Toronto Pride, which is taking their month-long celebrations online starting June 1.