For immediate release
Fort Frances, ON / International Falls, MN – Borderland’s second annual LGBTQ2 Pride Week has come to a close.
Dubbed PRIDE WEEK+, this year’s festival featured over 20 official events in 3 Borderland communities, hosted with the support of over a dozen partnering organizations, across a 17-day span. A number of unofficial or private events in celebration of Pride and LGBTQ2 diversity and inclusion were also hosted in area schools and organizations to coincide with the occasion.
"Pride is powered by public participation, and our tank is full," stated Pride co-chair Peter Howie. "Small town Prides are at the front lines of inclusion across Canada and the United States – and the Borderland region is showing how it’s done. The feedback that we receive from both within the community and those who no longer live here but still call this place home is very moving."
Highlights of the 2019 festival included free concerts at Rainy Lake Square featuring artists Warming and Rae Spoon, two drag performances, a Pride-themed church service, awareness events focused on two-spirit identity and other social issues, a special film screening, yoga, and two arts and crafting events. Most events were free and open to participants of all ages.
"We hold the only Pride parade in the world that crosses an international border," stated Pride co-chair Douglas Judson. "It’s not just a gimmick – it’s a reminder that in small places where Pride is new, we are actively working to build bridges. Not just bridges that span two great countries, but between different pockets of our communities that share common values and a connection to LGBTQ2 inclusion, or simply an LGBTQ2 loved one."
Well over 200 marchers crossed the border from International Falls to Fort Frances during the second-annual Passport to Pride March, with total participation in the Saturday march, barbeque, and concert estimated to be in excess of 300 people.
"Those who visited downtown Fort Frances this past week will know that almost every single window had a rainbow flag or message of inclusion on display," stated Howie. "This is only the second time we have celebrated Pride Week, and already the question people are asking isn’t ‘Why does so-and-so have that flag in their window?’ but instead ‘Why isn’t that business participating?’. We're also hearing from parents who have answered questions from inquisitive children about what all those rainbows mean. This has led to many positive discussions about what Pride and equality means and why it's so important."
Borderland Pride already has its sights on Pride Week 2020, and looks to continue building the event as a signature summer activity for the region, in collaboration with local organizers that have come forward in smaller communities, like Rainy River, which hosted a Pride Walk on May 25.
"It’s important that civic leaders across the Borderland region recognize that not only do they have duties and obligations to stand with LGBTQ2 members of their community and other equity-seeking groups, but that they recognize that Pride is important for our image, and our future," stated Judson. "It is critically important that we position our communities as welcoming, inclusive places where people and families of all identities and orientations can move, open a business, go to school, or enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Pride is a signal that they can do so in full confidence of the love and respect that they will receive from us. We live in small, northern, rural places – but you can check your assumptions at the door about what that means about our values."
Public feedback on PRIDE WEEK+ will be solicited by Borderland Pride in the near future. Local residents and supporters are encouraged to visit www.borderlandpride.org to add their names to the organization’s email distribution list so that they stay up to date on Pride activities in the area.