A rainbow was already visible in Victoria Park before the rain this morning as members of the community gathered to celebrate the fifth annual Kawartha Lakes Pride Picnic. As the clouds gave way and the showers began, a canopy of rainbow umbrellas sprang open and the festivities continued.
Kawartha Lakes Pride organizer Matthew Maddox estimated that between 300-400 people attended today’s event. It was Maddox, along with his close friend Carry Pearson who decided to bring Pride to Lindsay, five years ago.
Originally, Maddox says the organizers had prepared for a turnout of around 150 people from the community but was surprised to find that closer to 300 people joined the picnic in 2015.
“For the picnic to have grown so big so fast, it’s overwhelming and exciting at the same time,” says Maddox.
Rows of community tables were strung across the park, with representatives from local banks, artists, and community groups reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community and allies present at today’s event.
“Being able to reach people who are isolated is what we’re trying to do,” said Ronnie Ritchie, an education and support worker for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Ritchie primarily works in a program called Gender Journeys, which aims to support trans, gender non-conforming and gender questioning people, as well as their loved ones.
“Where it pays off for me is watching people make those connections and realize ‘I’m not alone and I can make friends,’” says Ritchie.
Maddox said that he was also pleased to receive a donation from a seniors’ group at Carressant Care, a local retirement home. “Later in life it is hard to go into a situation like this. It’s a second coming-out because it’s a brand-new community and you’re elderly,” he explains.
The event is significant for young people too, explained attendee Louise Craig, “I’ve got a ten-year-old at home who sees the events that happen in Toronto and asks why we don’t have that here. When we do,” she adds, “it just makes everyone more involved as a community.”
This year’s Pride celebrations spanned an entire week, with at least one event taking place each day. Maddox says that he was happy to see other businesses and organizations in the community create their own events while giving back to Pride.
Some businesses were also able to donate their space, resources and even free advertising to the event. Maddox says that these low-cost forms of support are an important way for businesses to give back, rather than using Pride as a way to gain revenue.
Maddox, who grew up in Lindsay spoke from experience when he said that the town has not always been this accepting. “When I grew up here, I didn’t know any gay people, it’s a big deal that it has come such a long way.”
One way that Maddox says individuals can show their support is by hanging pride flags outside of their homes. More information about local LGBTQ+ organizations can be found on the following websites: PFLAG Lindsay, Gender Journeys, Peterborough AIDS Resource Network.