Hundreds of Islanders join in 2019 Pride Manitoulin celebrations

PRIDE TAKES FLIGHT–Pride Manitoulin organizer Sarah Seabrook, holding flag left, calls everyone to attention as she and Belinda Butcher prepare to raise the Pride flag over Little Current on Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend’s celebration. Elder Josh Eshkawkogan, left, smudged the flag and offered an invocation to start the ceremony. photo by Warren Schlote

LITTLE CURRENT – It was a fabulous weekend of celebrating individuality and uniqueness at this year’s Pride Manitoulin, which took place from August 16 to 18 at locations across the Island.

On Friday afternoon at 6, the weekend festivities officially began with the raising of the pride flag at the flag pole near the eastern end of the Little Current boardwalk. Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin was in attendance, as were the weekend’s two featured drag queens Lucy Flawless and Priyanka, both of whom are members of the Spice Queens—a drag show version of English pop girl group The Spice Girls. Ms. Lawless bills herself as a feisty Northern Ontario farm girl.

Elder Josh Eshkawkogan smudged the flag and each person received tobacco to make an offering. He led a spiritual teaching about inclusivity and the need to recognize one’s place as a part of creation. 

As the flag went up to many cheers, Pride Manitoulin organizer Sarah Seabrook addressed the crowd and thanked them for taking part in the weekend.

“This year is special for many reasons,” said Ms. Seabrook, referencing the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Stonewall Riots which are often cited as the catalyst for the gay rights movement, as well as the $18,400 the group received from the Economic Heritage Fund to be put toward Pride initiatives.

She said the organizers started slowly in order to gauge how Islanders would react to a subject that still carries a certain amount of taboo in the modern age.

“When we saw how many people came out to the first events, we knew we were ready,” she said, adding that people’s calls to incorporate more activities such as drag queens have begun to be implemented as the event gains strength.

“This is for the kids who grow up here, so they can know, ‘okay, I can survive and thrive here,’” said Ms. Seabrook. 

She turned to a baby that was there for the flag raising and said it was important for him to know that when he grows up, he knows that people will love and accept him however he chooses to be.

Following the flag raising, the pride party moved to Manitoulin Brewing Company for the unveiling of this year’s pride beer can which commemorates the Stonewall Riots. That event was followed up by queer trivia at The Anchor Inn Hotel. The bar was standing room only at the peak of the event.

Saturday brought art events in the form of watercolour trees at Providence Bay’s Mutchmor Gallery and Catching Rainbows with Paint S-Capes at the Island Jar in Little Current. A drumming circle took place at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and there was live music at Split Rail Brewery Saturday afternoon. Finally on Saturday, pride celebrators convened for the drag queen show on North Channel Cruise Lines that started at 7:30 pm and ran until midnight.

Despite the late night, the colour fun run got underway at 9 at the Little Current Library on Sunday morning. The parade started at 11 with its route through downtown Little Current, offering even more floats and participants than the two prior years.

The parade came to a close with the community carnival at the Little Current United Church which featured food, cake, drag queens and an inflatable structure for the younger ones to enjoy. Although pride weekend seemed to be over shortly after it began, the scores of smiling faces at the events created memories that will certainly last a lifetime.