LAKEFIELD — The first Lakefield Pride Picnic is happening this weekend.
The event, which coincides with the Peterborough Pride Week celebrations, will be held at the village’s Isabel Morris Park from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.
“Dress up, show up and enjoy,” said Anne Showalter, one of the picnic’s organizers.
Ten to 15 organizers, part of a Lakefield-based committee affiliated with and supported by the Peterborough Pride committee, are overseeing the socially distanced picnic with the help of some 50 volunteers.
The picnic will kick off at noon at the park, with the event’s MC making a few comments before attendees hit the streets of Lakefield for a march. A map of the march route can be found on the Lakefield Pride Picnic’s Facebook and WordPress pages.
The march will be led by about 20 attendees carrying a large Pride flag — donated by RBC, a major supporter of the picnic, Showalter said.
Then, it’s back to the park grounds where youth and adult performers will take to the park gazebo, which will act as a stage.
The youth-focused, all-ages celebration will feature singing and storytelling from local drag queen performer Betty Baker. A number of local youth and adult performers will also be hitting the stage to sing and entertain audiences.
A drumming circle performance, led by Judy Hyland, is set to entertain audiences at the picnic, and a number of food vendors will be on site,” Showalter said.
The picnic’s rainbow coloured logo was put together by Emma Sloan, a graphic designer at the Lakefield Herald.
PFLAG — a national charitable organization formed by parents in a bid to foster acceptance and understanding for their LGBTQ2S children — along with Rainbow Youth, Selwyn Public Library and members of the Peterborough Pride Committee will also be in attendance.
The picnic was, in part, birthed in response to a hate-motivated incident in Lakefield last year. After a community member hung up Pride flags on lampposts around town during Peterborough Pride Week, some of the flags were torn down.
“That was very upsetting. We thought, ‘let’s think about doing something to raise awareness and show support.”
Showalter said the Lakefield community rallied together.
“People went out and started putting up more flags,” she said.
Showalter said the need for the picnic has become even more important in the wake of another recent incident apparently motivated by hate. Last weekend, a Pride flag at the Warsaw Public School in Douro-Dummer Township was burned, prompting an ongoing police investigation.
“What happened in Warsaw indicates the need for more events like the picnic. We’re happy that the response we’ve gotten has been so positive,” she said.
According to Showalter, the overarching goal of the picnic is to send a clear message to young people in the LGBTQ2S community.
“Unfortunately, some kids get the message that they’re not OK the way they are and that can have really detrimental effects. So for the children and youth in our town to know that there’s a community of people that supports them is really important. That can save lives,” she said, citing the higher risk of suicide for young people in the LGBTQ2S community.
“I don’t want that to happen to another child.”
Showalter said picnic organizers are “working intensely with the Township of Selwyn and Peterborough Public Health” to ensure safety protocols are being followed.
The picnic area will be spaced out to ensure physical distancing, there will be contract tracing and volunteers working at the roped-off grounds will be counting visitors coming in and out of the area. Showalter said.
There’s been an outpouring of support from community members leading up to the picnic, she added.
“Some people have reached out to donate stuff without even being asked.”
While Peterborough Pride events this year have been moved to virtual celebrations, Showalter hopes the Lakefield committee will be able to march when the Peterborough Pride parade returns next year.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner