Katie Wright and her daughter Grace walk along the newly installed permanent rainbow crosswalk in downtown Red Deer on Thursday. Grace says getting her photo taken on the crosswalk is her “favourite summertime activity.” Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Rainbow crosswalk to become permanent fixture in downtown Red Deer

One downtown crosswalk will continue to have a little more colour than the rest.

The City of Red Deer says it has installed a “permanent” rainbow crosswalk at Ross Street and Little Gaetz Avenue.

“It is simple gestures like these which help to ensure everyone feels welcome and appreciated in our community,” a post said on the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

For the past four summers, a temporary rainbow crosswalk was painted in the downtown to mark Pride Week.

Previous crosswalks were painted north to south across Ross Street, but the permanent rainbow runs east to west across Little Gaetz Avenue.

Bobbi-Jo L’Hirondelle, with the Central Alberta Pride Society, says installing a permanent rainbow crosswalk is “definitely” a step in the right direction.

“I think it was time for there to be a permanent crosswalk down there, and I love the location change from the main drag to Little Gaetz Avenue,” said L’Hirondelle.

The rainbow symbol is more meaningful than some people may know, L’Hirondelle added.

“It symbolizes so much to so many people. Each colour has a different meaning to our whole community.

“It’s so much more than just a rainbow. It means happiness, it means joy, it means kindness, it means treating people with respect, it means treating people with dignity. There’s so much more to it than it just being six colours.

“No matter (someone’s) gender identity or sexual orientation, I hope that they’ll let the rainbow shine through them as brightly as the one downtown.”

L’Hirondelle says there is more the city and community can do to be inclusive.

“One off the top of my head would be the talk of banning conversion therapy across our city.”

Kristy Svoboda, director of human resources at the City of Red Deer, says the crosswalk cost about $10,000 – the city and the pride society shared the cost.

“In past years, the crosswalk was painted using temporary paint. We’ve had some challenges with the weather. If it’s an overly wet season, it’s difficult to get the temporary paint to dry.

“We’ve also had some effects of vandalism as well in the past. With some more permanent product, it was an effort to minimize the effects of vandalism and ensure the longevity (of the crosswalk) and a permanent reminder in support of central Alberta Pride.”

This crosswalk serves as a reminder “that Red Deer is a welcoming and inclusive city,” Svoboda said.

“We’re hoping it will last that eight to 10 years, rather than having to do it every year and the cost that comes with that. We think this is better and I’m very proud of the City of Red Deer to advocate for our Central Alberta Pride Society,” Svoboda said.

This year’s Central Alberta Pride Week, which runs Aug. 9 to 15, will provide a “virtual experience,” according to the Central Alberta Pride Society’s Facebook page.

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