Taking to the streets with pride

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—Over 20 participants got on their marks, got set, and went off to compete in this year’s 5K Pride colour walk/run, held on Sunday, August 19 at the NEMI Public Library.

Participants of all ages came to travel the course that led them around the west-end residential streets, down to Low Island, across the downtown waterfront and up to the finish line at Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. Along the way, they had the chance to cool down with a water gun spray and get dusted with colourful Holi powder.

Pride Manitoulin organizer and founder Sarah Seabrook enlisted the help of her children to support the event—as the fun run started, son Noah Thorpe kept pace with the lead runner on his bicycle to show the way. Ms. Seabrook’s daughter Darcy Thorpe enthusiastically dusted the tired runners—and herself—with Holi powder at the finish line.

As Noah climbed the hill into the hotel parking lot, the first runner approached the finish line, ready for a break. Akasha Piche of Little Current took home the bragging rights and a shirtful of Holi powder that Darcy, Noah and volunteer Jody Kennedy threw.

“It’s great to participate in a race for a good cause like this, to help give a voice to people without one,” said Ms. Piche. She also came first in last year’s 8K run at Gore Bay Harbour Days.

Volunteer Julie Rochefort-Wood was waiting at the finish line, an excellent place considering her favourite part of the event is the Holi powder.

“People love coming to support Pride, and it’s brought people from outside the Island this year,” she said.

Karen and Dale Sheppard arrived shortly thereafter. Ms. Sheppard, 63, said this was her second year participating in the event.

“I want everybody to know that age is not a factor,” she said. “Anyone can participate; I encourage people to come support the walk/run.”

Ms. Sheppard normally likes running at 6:30 am to avoid the heat, so the late morning schedule provided a unique challenge.

Soon, more people began trickling into the parking lot. Since the event is designed for people of all ages and skill levels, a number of walkers made their way along the scenic waterfront route at their own pace, enjoying the sights of Little Current’s downtown.

The hotel also served as the staging area and starting point for the parade. Police officers, firefighters, politicians, businesses and community members came together to walk, roll and ride along the waterfront.

“The parade was a bit smaller compared to last year, but probably as well attended,” said Ms. Seabrook, adding that an event’s first year will always draw bigger crowds because of its newness.

“We had lots of families and lots of kids out,” she said. “To have everyone walk together and meet at the end, it’s emotional. For families and kids to be able to celebrate diversity, that’s an amazing feeling.”

The parade ended with a community barbecue at the Little Current United Church. Everyone was welcome to stop by for a well-deserved hot dog or hamburger, complete with a half-chocolate, half-vanilla Pride cake at the end. It was an opportunity for friends, new and old, to sit down together and celebrate each other in the spirit of Pride. There were also booths to spread awareness of sexual health services and the importance of consent.

As the attendees slowly parted ways and with the bulk of her job now complete, Ms. Seabrook shared some thoughts on next year’s event.

“Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF) wants to host more events, including some two-spirited artists,” she said. Ms. Seabrook said she hopes to expand the Saturday evening harbour cruise to get a drag queen and a fashion show on board.

Looking back on this year’s event, Ms. Seabrook said she needed to express gratitude to Pride Manitoulin’s sponsors. Sudbury Hyundai has signed on to support the festival for three to five years, and NEMI, OCF and Little Current United Church also provided major support.

“To all businesses and all attendees, thank you,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you plan something, you need people to make it a success.”