(Marion Steele, Organizer of the first West Side Pride celebration for Stittsville, welcomes the crowd at the Opening Ceremony. The event was held at Alexander Grove on July 22. Photos: Kaitlyn LeBoutillier)
On July 22nd, Stittsville hosted the first-ever West Side Pride event, a Pride celebration for the West End! The event brought in guests from Stittsville and Kanata as far as outlying areas such as Kinburn, Dunrobin, Carp, Arnprior, Pakenham and Renfrew. The event was hosted at Alexander Grove Park and ran from 12:00pm – 5:00pm.
The goal of the event was to celebrate Pride in the suburbs and bring them their own event. It is common to hear about Pride downtown, but less common to see events or parades in the small towns. Marion Steele, the Stittsville Village Association and many others who helped wanted to prove that there is Pride in the small towns and show how important it is to have these events everywhere.
The event was hosted by Marion Steele and put on by many volunteers and the Stittsville Village Association. They worked with many local businesses and outside volunteers in order to make the event happen. They received support from Jimmy’s Waffle World which provided food for the volunteers, Fun Days Foodtruck which set up shop in the parking lot, Ottawa Fire which sent a truck over for kids to learn about and even take turns sitting in, and many others.
The event got started around 12:00pm with people gathering and looking around. At 1:00pm, the Opening Ceremony kicked off the event. The ceremony saw many different guest speakers including Marion Steele who talked about her own experience with Pride events, Councillor Glen Gower who provided his support and excitement for the event, Tanya Hein of the Stittsville Village Association sharing on behalf of the SVA that members are pleased to support this Pride event and look forward to more events such as this, Drag King Caleb O’Guy talked about what it means to be a good ally, Councillor Ariel Troster who also popped in and was pleased to see a Pride event in Stittsville, and there were many other performances and speakers. The Opening Ceremony finished with a fun, kid-friendly, performance by Caleb and his iconic cowboy boots!
The day saw many other performers who took the stage every half hour or so, constantly keeping guests of the event (and sometimes people taking a walk through the park) entertained! Other guest performers included singer Craig Cardiff, performer James Ersil, Drag King BJ Stroker, and more!
One of the most interesting parts of the event was all the different booths set up around the park sharing information about a range of impactful causes. Most of the booths related to Pride and LGBTQIA+ issues in our community, but some also talked about other important issues that can be seen in our city and town as well.
There were booths about saving the environment in many different ways, some for Climate Change, Plant Based Solutions, against animal cruelty and much more. We even got to talk to some young representatives from Yellow Buses Go Green, a campaign to move school buses away from harmful diesel fuels.
There were many booths in support of the LGBTQIA+ members of our community, but one booth that stood out was aiming at helping the new LGBTQIA+ members of our community. The Capital Rainbow Refugee organization is a group that uses donations to help support sponsor groups, advocate alongside LGBTQIA+ refugees, and provide services for refugee claimants. This booth was not only supporting the Capital Rainbow Refugee organization but also helping organize information packages and resources for immigrants and refugees in our country.
Another LGBTQIA+-related booth was “Mama Dragons” a group that supports mothers or those in a motherly role of LGBTQIA+ children. They create a safe space to educate, support, and empower mothers of LGBTQIA+ children. They explained that sometimes that means creating a Facebook group that is a safe space for mothers to vent about things, sometimes it means information sessions or packages, and other times it is providing support for the mothers. One of the ways they provide support is through their “Embracelets.” “An embracelet is a handmade bracelet that is given out by Mama Dragons. It is a warm hug around your wrist to remind you that you are loved.” Mama Dragons are constantly accepting volunteers to help make these bracelets so they can continue to give them out.
The great thing about many of these booths is that they were run by local youth. The future of our community looks so bright after seeing the young faces fighting for change in our own town and surrounding towns. Organizations like CAWI (City for All Women Initiative) are fighting for change and representation of underrepresented groups every day.
In between performances on the main stage area, we caught up with Marion, the head organizer of the West Side Pride event, and got to talk about the success of the inaugural event. “For just the first year of this event, they were quite pleased with the turnout and support they received. They are already planning big things for the years to come and hope that this can become a tradition in Stittsville.
They hope as the event grows so will the volunteers and guests. At an event like this, there truly is something for everyone. They hope to make that statement even more true in the years to come while brainstorming a softball game to take place during the event, a bigger main stage area for more performers, and so much more!”
Between the Stittsville Village Association’s dedication and Marion’s passion, the success of the event shouldn’t come as a surprise and we know the event will only continue to grow and thrive in the years to come. We look forward to returning to the event next year and hopefully seeing returning and new faces enjoying themselves!
If you were interested in any of the organizations/charities mentioned and wanted to learn more about or support their cause, here are the links:
Mama Dragon: https://mamadragons.org
Capital Rainbow Refugee: https://capitalrainbow.ca/
The Fam Network: https://famnetworkcanada.com/
Aids Committee of Ottawa: http://aco-cso.ca/
Plant Based Treaty: https://plantbasedtreaty.org/