Annapolis Royal, NS - Gay pride and the theme of inclusivity were at the forefront of celebrations during the inaugural Pride Annapolis Royal.
Activities started July 21 at 9 a.m. with the opening ceremonies at the town's amphitheatre, followed by a walking parade down St. George Street to the town's new Rainbow Crosswalk.
Celebrants included members of the gay community, as well as their supporters of all ages and backgrounds.
Zeynep Tonak represented local youth on the event's organizing committee.
"Everywhere needs Pride day. Everywhere needs a day where everyone can see the love that the LGBTQ+ community has to offer," she said in an interview. "It's wonderful as a young person, who can see that her own small town that she has grown up in, is continuing to grow with her."
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Mid-morning saw two cyclists, Paul Davison of Wolfville and Holly Sanford of Annapolis Royal, set off on the Harvest Moon Trail, which winds its way through 110 kilometres of western Nova Scotia, between Annapolis Royal and Grand Pre.
In the minds of the mayors of Annapolis Royal and Wolfville, the use of the trail for the Valley Pride Ride was seen as a geographical link between the communities, and an opportunity to promote the themes of pride and inclusivity as shared ideals.
"I think It's important to have these Pride events in small communities. They have had them in the big cities for some time," Davison said before starting the Pride ride. "If the smallest town in Nova Scotia can do it, that means anybody can do it."
READ MORE ABOUT THE HARVEST MOON TRAIL
Celebrations also spread to the popular farmers’ and traders’ market and other businesses in town, where the public was welcomed to free rainbow face painting, rainbow stickers and ribbon bracelets, as well as rainbow themed merchandise.
Sue Rector and Karen Walters of Venice, Florida, sat on a bench enjoying the live music and bustle of the market, while sampling the local baked goods. The couple said they enjoy the openness to diversity they experienced while visiting the Valley.
"People talk about diversity here," Sue said. " They talk about it on the national news, they talk about it amongst each other. It's an open and positive subject. In our country, we sort of pretend we don't have to do anything about it. Therefore, the negative side of it exists more often than we want to admit."
Event organizer and market vendor, Bleu Ray, moved from the U.S. to the Valley with her family 10 years ago. The single mother and outspoken gay activist said she feared she would lose her job again.
"I left the United States because I wasn't going to raise my children in a place where I was not an equal citizen," she said.
She says she and other 2SLGBTQ+ individuals have experienced discrimination here in the Valley, in the past. However, it's empowering to live in a society where such intolerance is not acceptable.
"It's a world of difference when your government is saying that you're an equal citizen, to where you're living someplace where your government is actively, almost, encouraging bigotry. And, that's a huge difference inside a person."
Both Bleu and Mayor Bill MacDonald emphasize inclusivity makes a community welcoming and safer for all its residents and visitors.