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Pride parade in rural P.E.I. not going ahead this year

Jeanne Sullivan, one of the organizers of Pride by the Sea, stands in front of one of the many Pride flags waving in Victoria on July 29.
Jeanne Sullivan, one of the organizers of Pride by the Sea, stands in front of one of the many Pride flags waving in Victoria on July 29.

For the first time since it began in 2017, the Pride by the Sea Parade held in Victoria isn’t going ahead.

The event was started by Rachel MacLeod and Jeanne Sullivan and had been drawing enough people to temporarily double the population of the small village of about 100.

The decision, though disappointing, was an easy one to make in the interest of the safety of both the 2SLGBTQIA+ and village communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic, said MacLeod.

“In my opinion, people were sad it’s not happening, but they were relieved to not have to have the anxiety of having 100 to 150 flood in for an event.”

MacLeod and Sullivan decided to cancel the event early in the pandemic, to avoid having one more thing to worry about throughout the stress of a pandemic, said Sullivan.

“It was just after all the festivals just had to close and it was like, no, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

Even if safety could have been maintained, doing so would have altered the event too much, said MacLeod.

“It just really wouldn’t have the same spirit. We would be missing out on 90 per cent of the fun that we usually do.”

For both women, the parade was a way to showcase the diversity and openness of their rural community, said Sullivan.

“We wanted to show how open and accepting this community and that rural communities in P.E.I. are much more accepting than they used to be and that people should be proud to be different sexualities and identities.”

Even without the parade, the openness and acceptance has been on clear display as Pride flags are waving outside most businesses throughout Victoria during Pride Week.

One such business, the Orient Hotel, has acted as the de facto home base for the start of the parade with a small sound system for speeches.

Owner Richard LaGrange thinks the decision to cancel was the right one to make, but he recognizes what the annual event means to the community.

“It has brought the whole community together on one specific goal. It is a very tight community to begin with, and pretty much everyone from the village is either in the parade or on the sides of the roads supporting it.”

While the communities may miss out this year, Sullivan is already looking ahead, if a little hesitantly, she said.

“I think people will be more than excited to really kick it off again next year.”

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