Throughout the weekend when the Western Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun, there will be plenty of shining stars in Gananoque as the town on the St Lawrence River hosts its first gay pride celebrations.
With a population of just over 5,000, Gananoque is nicknamed the Gateway to the Thousand Islands and is renowned for its natural beauty, which makes it a fabulous playground for Ottawa-area gays and lesbians looking to escape the big city the weekend of June 22.
Summer Solstice Pride in the 1,000 Islands offers a plethora of performances and participatory events. Those looking for hard-rocking entertainment can enjoy shows by Grammy- and Juno-nominated Jarvis Church or former Rock Star: INXS
contestant Suzie McNeil. In addition, the explosive acrobats of Circus Orange will electrify spectators with their trademark blend of pyrotechnics and precarious feats.
“They’re going to perform on a stage that’s right on the waterfront, perched right on the Joel Stone Heritage Park,” says Katherine Christensen, of 1,000 Islands Tourism. “So not only will you be at a concert, but you’ll also be right on the shores of the St Lawrence River.”
For those looking to get active, kayaking and canoeing outings are on the agenda, as is a cycling trip dubbed the Pride Ride. If your calves are capable, the Pride Ride will see a convoy of cyclists make their way from nearby Kingston
back into Gananoque.
The final day of the weekend will feature a family-style picnic hosted by PFLAG representatives who will discuss gay and lesbian issues, including bullying and diversity.
“We’ve got a lot of entertainment and a little bit of education. It’s a nice mix,” Christensen says.
With so much planned, it’s natural that some assistance was required. The festival was awarded $40,000 from the Celebrate Ontario program, which funds events large and small across the province.
Summer Solstice Pride in the 1000 Islands is partnered with Travel Gay Canada (TGC), a national non-profit that aims to promote gay and lesbian travel experiences across the country.
Earlier this year TGC received a tourism development grant to conduct a market assessment of three Ontario municipalities, including Gananoque. When TGC delivered the results of the study to the region’s tourism board, one of its recommendations was to create a Pride event. Christensen says that luckily, the Summer Solstice festival was already in the works.
Christensen is hopeful that the success of this inaugural event will make the Thousand Islands region a go-to non-urban destination for the millions of travellers expected to attend WorldPride when it is held in Toronto in 2014.
Justin Lafontaine of TGC says the festival is a great opportunity for Ottawa residents who want to experience a gay pride event at a resort-style location and avoid the congestion of the big city.
“It’s a very different experience going to pride festivals in smaller communities versus larger ones in Ottawa and Toronto,” Lafontaine says.
“There’s a little bit more of a grassroots vibe, and there’s more diversity. People will be there from the LGBT community but also allies of the community and lots of families who want to come out to support diversity. And the Thousand Islands region is just so spectacularly beautiful.”
Summer Solstice Pride in the 1000 Islands
Fri, June 22-Sun, June 24