Small City with Big City Pride

With summer upon us and crowds eagerly venturing outdoors to enjoy the sun, Pride celebrations and activities will be taking place throughout the country. While the big city events such as Pride Toronto and Divers/Cité in Montreal often garner national coverage, there are many exciting projects undertaken by LGBT communities in smaller centres all over Canada. Cities and towns with both a smaller population base to draw participants and volunteers from, and a smaller corporate and private donor base from which to draw funding from, have their own LGBT communities and pride centres and work to foster and engage community within less populated areas.

The City of Lethbridge, located in southern Alberta, is celebrating its 3rd annual Pride Fest June 18–26. Festival Chair Heather Chomos has been involved from the beginning and says the festival draws a “proportionally comparative” crowd that increases each year. With no apparent challenges specific to holding a festival in a small city, there are some obvious benefits not seen in larger centres. According to Chomos, the festival is able to keep costs down because they are “not spread out across a massive geographical space.” With a variety of events and activities comprising the eight-day festival, LPF is wholly inclusive. “We strive to make the events both cost effective and fantastic,” Chomos says.

The festival began as a committee of community organizations in 2009, becoming a board the following year. “We are now a provincially registered society with a board of directors,” says Chomos. As the organizing committee developed, so has participation, and the event now boasts “an exponential growth of attendees each year.” Several local businesses act as sponsors, and Chomos says the city itself has been supportive. “We have seen the community truly embrace and support Lethbridge Pride Fest… we’ve always had an elected city official at our Flag Raising event, willing to speak and extend the city’s support.”

With a population of 87,000, Lethbridge has a visible and involved LGBT presence. Chomos notes the community is quite active, with “groups at our post-secondary institutions, a community advocacy/education group as well as our Pride society. Community groups also share in events during Lethbridge Pride Fest.” If the festival lacks anything that the big enterprises have in major cities, it certainly doesn’t show. The Pride Fest continues to grow and thrive, as does the city itself. And as for Chomos’ involvement? “Having witnessed Lethbridge Pride Fest birthed as a concept to actuality and seeing it grow each year, both in events and participation has been an absolute inspiration. Lethbridge continues to inspire me and I am thrilled to be a part of something so amazing.”