The P.E.I. Pride Festival is back this summer — and most events will be held in-person.
The festival will run for eight days from July 18 to 25, with more than 45 events currently planned.
"I think Pride P.E.I.'s festival 2021 is going to be this rising of the phoenix," said John Kimmel, chair of Pride P.E.I.
Last year, the festival was held mostly online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will still be some health restrictions in place at this year's events. The 2021 festival begins on the same day P.E.I. is opening its borders to vaccinated Canadians outside the Atlantic region.
"This is truly going to be an exceptional opportunity to show P.E.I. and all of Canada what we can do here," Kimmel said.
'Everyone is welcome'
Last year's festival came together "at the very last minute," said Kimmel.
"We planned a different festival every week from the moment they announced COVID until the very moment that we ended up delivering the festival," he said.
In 2020, festival organizers had to cancel the annual Pride parade.
"That was a big loss to not only the community who looks forward to not only showing themselves and being visible and representing each other, but also to meeting with the community and getting a chance to see friends that they haven't seen all year," Kimmel said.
This year, instead of a parade, Pride P.E.I. will be holding a march in downtown Charlottetown. There won't be floats like in years before, and spectators won't be allowed to gather along the streets to watch due to health restrictions. But Kimmel said "everyone is welcome to march with us."
Kimmel said he hopes the numbers for the march will exceed 2019's Pride parade. At that event two years ago, there were 920 participants in the parade and more than 6,000 spectators lining the streets, Kimmel said. He hopes more than 1,000 people show up this year.
"I certainly don't think that we're going to exceed 10,000 people, but one can only hope," he said. "We'd love to see all of P.E.I. join us on the streets of Charlottetown in solidarity and visibility."
'Celebrate inclusion and diversity across P.E.I.'
This year, Islanders will experience "the most regional and most rural Pride festival that we've ever seen here on P.E.I.," said Kimmel.
Events will take place across the Island and several will be family friendly, including a skateboard night at Victoria Park. Other events include drag shows, trivia nights and a poetry slam in partnership with PEERS Alliance.
Pride P.E.I. is trying to rework their Pride After Dark event — a dance party that used to be held in a hotel ballroom with DJs and live performers. To follow COVID-19 restrictions, Kimmel said festival organizers are hoping to hold the event in the Fitzroy parkade on Queen Street. That way, organizers can manage cohort numbers.
"Imagine transforming a huge piece of infrastructure into a dance party for one night only," he said.
Kimmel said Pride P.E.I. is working with the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation and the Chief Public Health Office to make sure the Pride After Dark event can happen in a parkade.
Kimmel said he hopes community members who participate in this year's festival will bring their friends and family along.
"The Pride festival is not just for the 2SLGBTQA+ community here on P.E.I., but for anyone who wants to celebrate inclusion and diversity across P.E.I."
All festival events are by donation or pay-what-you-can, Kimmel said.
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