On June 22, 2019, Airdrie held its first ever Pride Festival.
Up until then, 2SLGBTQ+ people in the small city had to travel 35 kilometres down the QE2 to celebrate Pride in Calgary.
More than 30 years before Airdrie’s inaugural festival, Calgary held its first pride event, and the movement has grown significantly in that time.
Despite the many resources and programming available down the highway, Airdrie Pride Society president Kiersten Mohr had a vision for the city she’s called home since 2004.
“When we started Pride, it was really about driving in some roots and building some foundation in Airdrie,” she says.
Airdrie’s big enough to have its own 2SLGBTQ+ community, Mohr says of the city that has seen its population explode in recent years to approximately 77,000.
Community support is growing
Since Airdrie Pride started in 2017, community support has continued to grow.
“We’re getting more and more folks out to different events, and there’s really starting to be a community, which is beautiful,” Mohr says.
“One of our guiding principles — with everything we’re doing — is we’re trying to make it really safe and inclusive and obvious so that people don’t have to leave their community to find their community.”
As a trans woman, Mohr says she got involved with Airdrie Pride because when she was figuring out who she was and searching for community, many people told her to just go to Calgary.
“The reality is if you’re doing that all the time, it feels like you’re running away. It feels like you’re hiding and leaving your home.”
She wants people within the 2SLGBTQ+ community to know they have a home in Airdrie; especially youth who may not have the means to avail of programs in Calgary.
Programming for youth, parents, and businesses
One of Airdrie Pride’s staple programs is PRYSM (Pride Youth Social Movement) — a way for local 2SLGBTQ+ young people and their allies to gather and connect in a safe and fun environment.
While the festival and other in-person events had to be put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic, PRYSM and Parenting with Pride continued virtually.
Airdrie Pride also carried the momentum from such a successful inaugural festival in 2019 into 2020 and 2021 with the pandemic-friendly Pride on Your Porch, which encouraged supporters to decorate their homes in pride colours to showcase the community’s inclusivity.
Mohr says they also shifted focus during the pandemic to “friend-raising” rather than fundraising.
They did that by offering community training and 2SLGBTQ+ courses and seminars for local businesses.
“The intention of that was really to kind of focus our work on our goal of making Airdrie inclusive, not just Airdrie Pride,” she says.
“So we wanted to kind of empower businesses and places in the community just to have the knowledge to be able to be better and more inclusive.”
Mohr says the training was and continues to be successful with approximately 700 people taking part so far.
There’s been some dark clouds
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the Airdrie Pride Society as they have been tasked with cleaning up vandalism to the beloved pride pathway in Nose Creek Park on multiple occasions over the past couple of years.
Each time it happened, it was heartbreaking for many in the community.
“It only takes one person to hurt you,” Mohr says, adding she feels for the people who aren’t out yet and see that.
But after each act of vandalism came a wave of positive support.
“When stuff like that happens, I always say ‘focus on the reaction instead of the action’. Focus on how the community responds because usually, that is really, really positive,” Mohr adds.
A permanent fixture
Airdrie Pride was able to raise enough money to install a permanent pride pathway.
Unfortunately, due to delivery delays, it won’t be ready for this weekend’s festival but Mohr says the rainbow has a fresh coat of paint, and city crews will start installing the permanent pathway as soon as possible.
“It’s been a great collaboration with the city,” Mohr says.
“The city’s as motivated to get that in as we are. Just because there are so many people in the community that have come to love it.”
Airdrie’s Instagram-worthy rainbow pathway is a popular spot for family photos and has become a much-loved local landmark.
The new one will be made of thermoplastic which is durable, easily cleanable, and has a 20-year life span.
Mohr says it sends the message that the 2SLGBTQ+ community is here and here to stay.
“It very much, to many of us, is a symbol that says everyone in this community has the right to be here.”
After two years of pandemic-related delays, the Airdrie Pride Society is ready to “reignite community” this weekend.
The second Pride Festival will kick off Saturday with a Solidarity Walk at Airdrie’s city hall.
Supporters can gather starting at 10:30 a.m. and are asked to “come as people” without representing any corporations or political parties.
Led by members of subgroups including queer people with disabilities, queer youth, queer people of colour, two-spirit, and Indigenous individuals, the Solidarity Walk will make its way to Airdrie’s Nose Creek Park.
“We put that group at the front and we always say we let them control the pace and surround them with community and support,” Mohr says.
More than a party
The Solidarity Walk is meant to bring awareness to the parts of the community that are still challenged and have not seen the same progress as others, explains Mohr.
“This is more than just a party and a celebration. It’s really a moment to stop and appreciate who still needs help getting into the same place as the rest of us.”
Mohr remembers the first Solidarity Walk in 2019 fondly.
“Most of us say it was probably one of the most emotional and amazing moments of our lives. So, we’re hoping to redo that this year.”
As for the Pride Festival itself, it will start with a flag-raising ceremony at noon and will be followed by a slate of entertainment, music, and drag performances on Nose Creek Park’s main stage throughout the afternoon.
There will also be food trucks and vendors on-site with the event wrapping up at 4 p.m.
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