Kingston Pride is under a week away from kicking off its' 2022 festival, set to be the biggest in years after the pandemic has kept it limited through the last two.
Organizers began to feel confident that Pride events could come back in relatively full force this year after the announcement of vaccine and masking mandates being dropped in the province, and expected that barring something extraordinary, Pride Festival 2022 would return to being more in line with pre-2020 events.
Ian Burns, the chair of Kingston Pride, said while there was some reasonable hesitancy from the community in participating in Pride events last year, the interest and excitement has ramped up considerably in 2022.
"We definitely have more people interested in participating in the parade and community fair this year," Burns said.
"We've definitely seen a surge of interest from the community."
Last year, Kingston Pride was able to hold a more limited festival under existing COVID restrictions, but it was delayed until September.
That delay has made organizing a bit more hectic for the Pride team, who were saddled with the election and onboarding of two new board members, community surveys, and follow up from the 2021 festival all in a much more condensed period.
Burns says that condensed schedule made everything feel like it was coming very fast, but the board was determined to pull off a larger event this year in Pride month.
Last year, Kingston Pride announced its' own vaccine mandate before the province had declared one, but this year will be operating with little restrictions in place.
Burns said while the pandemic is not over, they expected added restrictions could be met with some backlash and so have left it up to individuals attending to decide what they're comfortable with, while trying to keep a blend of indoor and outdoor events.
Pride will kick off on Friday June 10 with a drag show, and hold a variety of different events almost every day of the next week including the June 11 Pride Run/Walk.
This year, Pride has expanded its list of activities and events in order to host certain aspects outside of the downtown center.
Burns says organizers planned it that way in order to make this year's festival as accessible as possible for everyone.
"We've gotten some community feedback in the last couple years stating that most of Kingston Pride's events are downtown, and that's not necessarily accessible to people who live on the west end primarily," Burns said
"Kingston is sprawling, it's not just downtown Kingston and we need to support as many areas around Kingston as we can as possible."
June 14's Trivia events highlight that, taking place at Riverhead Brewing on the West end and Fine Balance Brewing on the East.
Burns said Pride managed to partner with most of the city's breweries this year, and hope to build on that relationship even more in future years.
Pride events will be taking place all over Ontario in the month of June, and this weekend in nearby Napanee the community's first ever sanctioned Pride event, Pride in the Country, is being held.
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News