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Gananoque hosts second-annual Pride celebration

Flotilla parade main attraction of 1000 Islands festivities

A Pride bike ride from Kingston and a flotilla parade highlight Gananoque's second-annual Pride celebrations. Credit: Courtesy of 1000 Islands Accommodation Partners.
The small town known as the Gateway to the Thousand Islands will host its second annual Pride festival in mid-June, with an emphasis on the area’s natural wonders.

“We’re a little pebble that made big ripples last year,” Katherine Christensen, of 1000 Islands Accommodation Partners, says. “It was far better than we could have hoped. What we have to do is stay true to our roots. Everything that we do is based on the fact that we are in the 1000 Islands.”

This year’s festival will highlight Gananoque’s proximity to the islands by eschewing the traditional, land-based route in favour of a Pride flotilla parade down the St Lawrence River.

Boats representing the Gananoque Police Service and the town’s popular fishing derby will take part. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to ride on the lead boat or dress up their own boats to join the convoy.

“I know there’s going to be some folks in their kayaks and canoes. They won’t be able to keep up, but they’ll be able to paddle around in our bay,” Christensen adds with a laugh.

The flotilla will converge with a group of cyclists peddling from Kingston at Joel Stone Heritage Park, where a 1970s disco band, a beer garden and a barbecue will await. The Pride Ride will symbolically hand off the Pride torch from Kingston’s gay community to Gananoque’s.

Pride coordinator KP Proulx hopes these innovative touches will build on last year’s inaugural event.

Gananoque Pride received a $40,000 grant from Celebrate Ontario, which funds large and small events across the province, to fund its celebration. Additional partners include 1000 Islands Accommodation Partners, Gananoque Boat Line and several local businesses.

Organizers hope a Rocky Horror Picture Show-themed boat cruise; drag show; family fun day, hosted by PFLAG; and a performance by Juno Award-winner Jully Black will also lure people from neighbouring big cities to the island town.

Christensen says Gananoque Pride isn’t trying to be “Las Vegas or downtown Toronto. This is a place to come, relax and take in some culture.”

“It’s important to discover the LGBT community in small-town Ontario,” Proulx says. “There is a lot to offer, and there is a great arts community. And they know how to party in the country.”