Is it the first or not? Has Red Deer had official Pride events before? You need to ask what the heck "official" means to answer that question.
Jennifer Vanderschaeghe of the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS) clearly doesn’t want to minimize the efforts of previous event organizers.
"There have certainly been lots of gay or queer pride activities that have happened in Red Deer over the last 30 years. But this is the first one CAANS has organized.
"CAANS is the regional HIV organization responsible for doing all of the HIV prevention and support in Central Alberta, and we’ve been around since 1988. We were one of the first five HIV organizations in the province, along with AIDS Calgary, HIV Edmonton, HIV North and the Lethbridge HIV Connection."
Red Deer has had many events in the past decades to celebrate the Pride passage, but not one so centrally organized as this year’s effort. Jennifer thinks it’s partly because of the city’s unique location.
"Red Deer’s tricky, and I think part of it is the geography of the province. Our organizations are smaller than Lethbridge or Grand Prairie probably because we’re so close to Calgary and Edmonton, and we can go to Calgary tonight and see the drag show, and meet our friends or date somebody, and don’t have to find that connection in the queer community here. Certainly we’ve been working with whatever there has been (here) for organizations, but the organizations have come and gone."
She mentions (as an example) that The Great Alberta CampOuts ran for years just outside of Red Deer, more recently called The Western Canadian Pride Festival. With regional postering and advertising in magazines like this one, it served as a focal point, to some degree, for the Red Deer LGBTQ community. Now, however, the main planner has left for greener pastures, and CAANS has taken on the job.
To use an entrepreneurial metaphor, someone’s got to drive the bus, and it’s CAANS’ turn to do so.
Mason McColl, CAANS’ Gay and Bi-Men’s Outreach Worker, describes what the layout of the newly organized Red Deer Pride Days will look like:
"The first evening we have a scavenger hunt, a walking around downtown Red Deer kind of thing; the second evening there’ll be a movie screening (a queer movie, in case you’re wondering, and it’s a surprise!); and we’re doing a barbeque for the closing night, followed by a Bike Cruise (a decorated bicycle parade)."
CAANS is still getting input on the physicality people are interested in for such a parade: as some people will be on roller blades, some on longboards (skateboards to us oldies), some on bikes; so they are still looking for community opinions on how much of the extensive Red Deer bike path system they’ll be accessing.
To express those opinions, get them on Twitter, Facebook, phone, or drop by the office in person.
Don’t blink though: it’s coming up fast: Tuesday August 14th to Thursday the 16th. Tuesday and Wednesday nights start at 7pm, and the Barbeque will start at 6pm. During that time, participants will be able to decorate their different modes of transport, and CAANS will actually supply decorations if you need it. At about 7:30pm, the parade begins.
And all the events are free.
"We’re trying to connect people who live in and around Red Deer," Jennifer continues. "We’re not necessarily trying to only connect with people who spend a lot of time in the bar. There’s families, and there’s youth, and Red Deer’s small: we need to be inclusive of people who can’t (or don’t want to) get into bars. There’s options really close, here in town, or in Calgary or Edmonton, for people who want to do that. Queer families (and youth) in Red Deer don’t necessarily get a lot of options to connect with others.
"The reality is that if we’re going to do this, we should do this in a way that fits well for everybody."
4611 – 50th Avenue • Red Deer, AB
Twitter @CAANSRedDeer • Facebook: RedDeerPrideDays
Email:• Phone: 1-877-346-8858
Red Deer Pride
Tue, Aug 14th – Thu, Aug 16th