Souris hosts first Pride festival
SOURIS — The true colours of Souris were on display Sunday afternoon as people came together to repaint the Westman town’s Pride crosswalk.
The painting marked the second year Souris has had a Pride crosswalk and the first year the town located 45 kilometres southwest of Brandon has held a Pride festival.
Organizer Caleigh Walker said the Souris Pride Committee is excited to be gaining momentum and getting more people involved in the festivities.
“The lack of representation and safety for queer kids in our community was really important to us … it’s really important that we have the affirmation and safety for the future generation,” said Walker, who organized the event along with Cassie Quadrelli, Karen Kempe and Marley Dewar. This year marks the second year the Souris Pride Committee has been in operation.
The rainbow crosswalk sits in the middle of the town, at the intersection First Street and Crescent Avenue. It holds the rainbow colours to symbolize the LGBTQ community, along with black, brown, light blue, pink and white, which represent marginalized people of colour and transgender people.
Approximately 20 people showed up to help paint the colourful squares of the crosswalk, which dulled over the winter, and try a Pride-themed donut.
The first iteration of the Pride festival started with a movie screening on Saturday at the Avalon Theatre and wrapped up with the crosswalk painting, but the hope is to grow it in the future. Quadrelli said the Pride festival is an important event for the community to hold.
“We’ve had lots of folks who moved away who have reached out and are saying how much they appreciate this because they would have felt more welcome had there been this community when they were here in school,” she said.
“We’ve had lots of youth reach out to us too, and that just reinforces what we’re doing and makes us realize this is important work.”
Dewar said Pride is especially important in rural areas, where the narrative is they are not as open as larger centres.
“It’s important to note that queer folks exist outside of those major urban centres and they exist here in our town amongst the adults but also the youth population. Acknowledging and affirming literally saves lives,” Dewar said.
The hope with the crosswalk is that both locals and visitors see it and know there is space and support for them in the community, they said.
There is also less anonymity in small towns, Kempe said, and everyone needs support.
Other Manitoba small towns are also planning to hold their own Pride events, including Swan River, Flin Flon and Steinbach.
Going forward, the aim is to grow and formalize the Souris Pride Committee, Kempe said. Dewar said she hopes to have a festival in the park complete with live music and entertainment, likening it to how Pride festivals in both Winnipeg and Brandon have grown since their small beginnings.
The Souris Pride Committee’s plan is to partner with groups in other small rural communities to help host more events throughout the year and grow the sense of community, Walker said.
“It’s nice to just keep getting more exposure so we can get more people feeling more comfortable to join.”
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