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Coronavirus: Lethbridge Pride Fest celebrates 12th year while adapting to changes

Click to play video 'Lethbridge Pride Fest adapts to COVID-19' Lethbridge Pride Fest adapts to COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: In 2019, Lethbridge Pride Fest saw thousands attend a variety of events to support the LGBTQ+ community within the city. Along with many other festivals, it was cancelled this year amid COVID-19. As Eloise Therien explains, the group was still able to celebrate on a smaller scale. – Jun 22, 2020

After record-breaking attendance at last year’s Pride parade, the Lethbridge festival is happy with growing its attendance this year.

“We grew Pride from an event of under 100 people to last year over 8,000,” said co-chair Levi Cox on Sunday.

“To not have those huge gatherings and feeling strong together as a community, it’s been a challenging year.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has adapted. On Sunday, members set up a Pride-themed backdrop outside the Galt Museum and Archives to welcome anyone who wanted to get a free photo.

Families, couples and individuals attended throughout the afternoon.

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“It’s a good chance to just be outside, like with our friends here, and get some pictures taken,” said attendee Phil Degagne.

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Organizers said the understanding of Pride is changing, and the Black Lives Matter movement is intertwined with the meaning of Pride.

Cox said the backdrop for the photos was designed by a local art collective, with the letter “E” in “Pride” representing the BLM movement and honouring the Stonewall rioters from more than 50 years ago.

“Pride has changed a lot over the years. Some people didn’t feel included in Pride and it was known more as a gay man’s event,” Cox said.

Lane Sterr, a board member with Lethbridge Pride Fest, said it’s important to understand Pride welcomes anyone and not just identifying members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s very important for us to see allies,” he said. “Just getting the awareness out… it means more normalization for our community.”

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Vandalism of the Pride flag has been an issue for the Taber Equality Alliance over the past few years, but according to co-chair Jayce Wilson, this year has been peaceful.

“I think because it’s been a little quieter and our Pride has been a little more lowkey, there hasn’t been that community push back,” she said. “Hopefully, that is a sign of what’s to come in the following years.”

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Cox says they have chosen to fly the “Progress” Pride flag this year, which is an adaptation of the traditional six-coloured rainbow flag. It includes black and brown stripes to represent marginalized groups of colour. Pink, blue and white stripes represent the colours of the transgender flag.

A virtual flag-raising is set to take place on Monday morning through the group’s Facebook page.