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By Michael Christianson
Dryden held its first ever Pride celebration in its over 100-year history on Saturday; for attendees and organizers it was a long time coming.
It was a day for people from all walks of life to come together to support equality and raise awareness, acceptance and to help improve the lives of those who identify as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Two-Spirited, (LGBTQ2S+) community.
The Pride celebration began at City Hall with speeches from local speakers as well as MP Bob Nault and MPP Sarah Campbell.
Before the Pride flag was raised Mari Thibault spoke to the history of rights and how far the community has come.
“There’s members of my family and my friends who live every day as part of the LGBTQ2S and I feel it’s very important as a questioning ally to make sure that people are educated and that people start to understand and see the history that has affected the community,” said Thibault. “Today there are so many youth out there, no matter where they are from, that feel they are not accepted and that they are not proud of themselves. The biggest message we can send out there is that it’s so important to be who you are and ask questions and learn and know there are spaces you are accepted.”
From City Hall close to 100 people marched to Cooper Park where the celebration got into full swing with live entertainment, food and games.
Shelley Durance and her transgender son Evan were among the speakers that addressed the crowd in the park. She said the event surpassed her expectations.
“Dryden has been amazingly accepting, welcoming, encouraging to not only myself but my son and my husband so we have been pleasantly surprised but we’ve gotten over that surprise and its just heart warming,” said Durance.
Durance emphasized the themes of the day and encouraged all to keep an open mind and to be accepting.
For Evan who now lives in Winnipeg, he said it was fun to come back home and to see this celebration taking place in Dryden was a pleasant surprise.
Dryden’s first Pride celebration was a great success and an emotional day for many involved.
Co-chair of the Dryden Pride Committee BJ Maggrah was thankful to everyone who showed up and volunteered. He took time to reflect on growing up in Dryden and how far the community has come from then to this historic event.
“Small town atmosphere can really be tough for them because of small town stigmatisms, the bigotry that happens, the discrimination etc. So that can be very hard for them,” said Maggrah. “Growing up as a small town gay boy as I like to say, I went through these emotions, questions of, will people still accept me? Will people still love me? My family, friends, will they still accept me? Is it ok to be like this?”
Today Maggrah stands proud with his supportive parents by his side as he encourages others to speak out and access resources available to get through difficult times.
Following Pride the organizing committee announced the creation of the ‘Rainbow Alliance Dryden’ group to keep the community close together until next year’s Pride celebration.