Innisfail Pride has returned to show Central Alberta that “love is love,” no matter who you are.
About 600 people attended the second annual Pride celebration, which began at Legion Picnic Park Saturday and continued Sunday under the theme “Love is Love.”
This theme speaks to the ongoing struggle of the LGBTQ2S+ community and the invalidation of community members’ love, according to the Innisfail Pride website.
“‘Love is Love’ means that the love expressed by an individual or couple is valid regardless of their lover or partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the website explained.
COVID-19 restrictions were still in place during the inaugural Innisfail Pride celebration in 2021, so there was a 150-person maximum. Dale Dunham, Innisfail Pride co-founder and a member of the group’s board of directors, said they had to turn people away from last year’s event because so many were coming.
“To be able to provide this in a larger space for more people this year, I think is really important,” said Dunham.
“It gives people a great opportunity to come out, feel connected and feel loved. They can be themselves.”
Dunham and his partner Shaun Steen, who is also a director on the board, own a coffee shop in Innisfail. Last year, an employee’s child, who is transgender, said they wanted to be able to go to a Pride celebration.
Dunham and Steen then teamed up with Cindy Bee to create Innisfail Pride.
“I do a lot of drag shows in this community, so it just fit for us to come together and make it happen for everybody. Innisfail deserves it,” Bee said.
On top of having a celebration and drag show at the 2021 event, the group wanted to provide an educational element as well, Dunham explained.
“Shaun and I have had a number of customers come in and tell us they were allies, but they didn’t fully understand what it is to be an ally. They didn’t understand the terminology, they didn’t understand the acronym – they didn’t understand a lot of it,” said Dunham.
The two asked themselves, “How can we help them understand more so we can help them be better allies?”
Dunham said this Pride celebration was for both Innisfail residents and people from across Alberta.
“Having the ability to attract people from outside of the community allows this community to grow as well. We all have different life experiences. Living in a rural small town like Innisfail is substantially different from living in a place like Edmonton, or even Red Deer,” said Dunham.
It also allows members of the LGBTQ2S+ community to learn about Innisfail too, said Bee.
“If they’re travelling any time, they know there’s a safe space in Innisfail if they need it,” Bee said of Dunham and Steen’s business, The Coffee Cottage.
For more information, visit www.innisfailpride.org.