Balloons, bouncy castles and dozens of people filled Dundonald Park on Saturday, at the Capital Pride festival's family pride zone.
The main attraction was at the centre of the park, under an inflatable rainbow arch, where drag queens Ruby Foxglove and Genesis sat down to read a Doctor Seuss book to children.
"Oh! The places you'll go!" read Genesis aloud, as the children listened enraptured.
But drag story time attracted more than just the kids — for parents and performers it was a way to let kids learn about diversity and respect for themselves and others.
"I would have never imagined [when I came out] at 16, that this would be happening," said Hope Zonruiter, a non-binary person who brought their daughter to the event. "It's amazing."
They have been attending the week-long Capital Pride festivities that kicked off last Sunday for its first in-person celebration in three years.
"It feels like coming home," Zonruiter said.
Diversity in role models
In addition to a Pride pageant, the festival featured a free street party on Bank Street and a slew of performances and family activities to celebrate the city's queer communities. The festivities are set to wrap with a Pride parade on Sunday.
The family pride zone is new this year.
"It's an opportunity for folks to see diversity in role models that are different than what we typically would see," Geneviève Colverson, the co-chair of Capital Pride's board of directors, said.
Genesis said she wanted to read to the younger generation, because she wants to be that role model for them.
"When I was younger, being queer, being Asian, being a first generation immigrant, I never really had anyone to look up to," Genesis said.
"It took me a really long time to figure out that I could have lived a much more happy, open, comfortable life had there been someone to look up to in that way."
'There's still a fight to fight'
Mother of two, Sara Connelly, also brought her daughters to the family events on Saturday.
"The more that we can introduce kids to different cultures and different types of people, the happier everyone will be, the safer everyone will be," she said.
But despite this celebration, Genesis said she hasn't always felt safe in Ottawa.
She remembered how the safety of Ottawa residents, and especially the queer community, was threatened during the illegal occupation of Ottawa's downtown core in February by the Freedom Convoy.
This is the first time since then, Genesis said she's seen such a big crowd out in the streets of Ottawa.
"To have this event where people are now joining together and being able to kind of do similarly what the convoy was doing, but to do it and hold so much respect for a certain community and for the city and each other — it feels like a very big step in the right direction after a long time facing the wrong way."
For Colverson, Pride isn't just about celebrating diverse identities, but about uniting to combat homophobia and transphobia.
She said the festivities this year have been bigger than ever before, with thousands of people set to celebrate the city's queer community at Sunday's parade.
"It's a space where everyone can feel welcome and everybody belongs," she said.
Zonruiter said they will attend the parade with their daughter.
"We need to remember that we're stronger together as a community. And there's still a fight to fight," they said.