EDMONTON – Edmonton Pride Festival is officially underway, after a vibrant parade made its way through the streets of downtown Saturday afternoon.
Donned in brightly coloured clothes and costumes, thousands of people took part in the yearly event, which showcases the unity and diversity of the LGBTQ community and its allies.
Edmonton’s first Pride celebration took place in 1980, and the festival has certainly come a long way since then.
“People used to wear paper bags marching in the Pride Parade because they were afraid to lose their jobs,” says Dr. Kris Wells, Director of Programs & Services with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services at the University of Alberta.
WATCH: Raw video footage from Edmonton’s Pride Parade in 1993
Wells is also the co-founder of Camp fYrefly – Canada’s only leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified youth.
This year, Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference marched in the Pride Parade with Camp fYrefly. He was also representing You Can Play – a campaign dedicated to eradicating homophobia in sports.
Saturday was the first time an Oiler has participated in the Pride Parade. The captain says it’s all about supporting inclusion.
“It’s the way it should be. It’s great,” Ference said as he walked through the streets of downtown. “It’s celebrating our differences rather than pushing people to the side. Everybody is included, everybody is having fun.
Wells says it’s leadership like Ference’s that has inspired change in many people over the years.
“Look how far we’ve gone in, really, in just a generation. And that’s because people have been visible, allies have stood up and spoken out. And that’s how change happens.”
For more information on other festivals and charity events happening in and around the city this summer, visit Global Edmonton’s festival page.