Rainbow flags fill downtown Moose Jaw as city celebrates first pride parade

Moose Jaw's first pride parade was held Saturday, but it's not the first time people in that city gathered for gay rights.

Parade followed same route as 1978 gay rights protest

Joe Wickenhauser from Moose Jaw Pride pumped up the crowd at the pride parade. (CBC)

In many ways this weekend's pride parade in Moose Jaw was like many others you see in Canadian cities.

There was a large crowd of people marching down the street while waving flags as dance music echoed through the city.

You could spot drag queens dressed in pink sequins, women in feather boas and kids with rainbow flag tattoos decorating their cheeks.  

All of this, however, is new to Moose Jaw. The 2016 pride parade is the first for the city of 33,000.

You know, it's 2016. It's time to embrace gender and sexual diversity and celebrate it.- Joe Wickenhauser

"I'm just beyond words right now," Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of Moose Jaw Pride, said when asked about the effort that went into the event.

During the parade on Saturday, Wickenhauser pumped up the crowd while wearing an inflatable unicorn and a T-shirt with the slogan: "Keep calm and pride on."

The parade is a second first for Moose Jaw Pride. The organization opened a community centre in April.

"There's just a lot of people in our community that support LGBT people," he said.

"We're just really excited to have this venue — this opportunity — for people to all come together and say, 'You know, it's 2016. It's time to embrace gender and sexual diversity and celebrate it.'"
Hundreds of people came out to either march in the parade or cheer people on. (CBC)

Honouring 1978 protest

The parade also paid homage to past struggles. 

The route was the same one people walked in a 1978 gay rights protest in Moose Jaw. 

Recalling that time, Regina's Roger Carriere — who was there — said the protest was organized because a well-known, anti-gay activist was on the way to Moose Jaw with her "Save Our Children" campaign.  
Roger Carriere was the parade marshal. He walked in Moose Jaw's gay rights protest in 1978. (CBC)

"Anita Bryant and her colleagues were on a crusade across Canada to prevent legal protection of gay men and lesbians," said Carriere.  

He said more than 100 people were in the protest which felt, to him, like a solemn affair. 

Carriere also remembers how some people were fearful about participating.

"Certainly in the march there were some people who seemed concerned about being identified," Carriere said. "One fellow had a paper bag over his head. A woman had very large sunglasses."

Carriere led this weekend's pride parade as the Grand Marshal.  

"In essence that march instilled pride," Carriere said Saturday at the parade, adding he hoped people were feeling that emotion again — 38 years later.