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Peterborough Pride celebrates a decade of festivities

'Peterborough's gay scene is an interesting blend of people,' board member says

Peterborough Pride runs from Sept 21 to 27 and is the last Pride of the season. Credit: Courtesy of Peterborough Pride.

Peterborough Pride celebrates a decade of queer festivities this year. Although the town doesn’t have an official gay hangout, treasurer Mike Archer says, “There’s something for everyone” at the last festival of Canada’s Pride season.

Xtra asked Archer what might attract big-city folks this year and how Peterborough’s festival has grown since 2003.

 Xtra: It’s been 10 years since the first Peterborough Pride. How have you seen the festival grow in the past decade?

Mike Archer: The first Peterborough Pride, Sept 13, 2003, was a one-day event that began with Mayor Sylvia Sutherland proclaiming the day as Gay Pride Day. This first event attracted around 400 participants in the city's first Pride parade.

The following year, the second Pride parade was held with similar attendance, and three additional events were held, including dances and a family picnic. In 2005, with the passage of Bill C-38, marriage equality, the annual celebration took on additional emotion and meaning.

Fast forward to 2012, there were an estimated 1,000 participants in the Pride parade. For 2013, there are two weeks’ worth of Pride-related events, with five events occurring in the week leading up to the official opening. In total, there will be 28 unique events held during these two weeks. One thing that hasn't changed is the family-friendly focus of events that are organized by Peterborough Pride.

Xtra: Although close to Toronto, Peterborough is a smallish town. Has the festival come up against homophobia or individuals who disapprove of the celebrations during its history?

During that first Pride parade, there were few spectators, and of those, most of them were curious onlookers. There were a few who came out to protest, but they quickly realized that the parade was not displaying anything that clashed with their morals. They had a dialogue with some of the organizers during the parade and ultimately were quite warm and friendly.

In the years following, there have not been any notable instances of homophobia or transphobia during any of the events. Of course, this has to be contrasted with the fact that Peterborough had the highest rate of reported hate crimes among Canadian cities in 2011, at 17.9 reports per 100,000 people.

Xtra: Does the fact Peterborough have the highest rate of reported hate crimes weigh heavily on the city’s gays, lesbians and trans people? Is this addressed in any way during Pride?

We know that minorities in Peterborough have a great relationship with the Peterborough Lakefield Community Police, and there is a great reporting structure in that police force. Due to this, reporting might be high, but actual incidents are likely at a similar rate to other Canadian cities. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know how many unreported hate crimes there are in any city, so reported crime rates is the only measure we can go on.

I can't say that I personally hear from any area queers who say they feel uncomfortable in the city due to the reported crime rate. This information isn't typically brought forward during any of the major Pride events though sometimes is discussed during discussion groups, such as the coming-out workshop or the PFLAG sharing circle.

Xtra: For those who aren't familiar with Peterborough, how would you describe the town’s gay scene? Is there a thriving queer community there?

Peterborough's gay scene is an interesting blend of people across all ages, with many young people coming into the city to attend school at Trent University and Fleming College. Many of the younger people do identify strongly with the queer label and tend to embrace political activism. Many of the middle-aged and older people tend to prefer a quieter lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Peterborough doesn't have an official gay bar or queer hangout space. However, there are a number of gay-friendly venues, including the Sapphire Lounge, Catalina's Salon/Barbeside, the Spill CafĂ©, Shots and Aria Nightclub. Groups in Peterborough also plan events on a monthly or bimonthly schedule, including Drag Bingo, put on by PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network), and women's dances, put on by RSO (Rainbow Service Organization).

Xtra: Our readers are familiar with Pride Toronto and Capital Pride. What makes Peterborough Pride unique?

Peterborough Pride, as with many Pride events, is organized by members of the community of Peterborough. The energy put into organizing our long list of third-party events comes entirely from the businesses and groups within Peterborough who agree to follow the spirit of Peterborough Pride's mission and values statement but have free rein over the events they host.

Peterborough boasts having the last Pride celebration of the summer in Ontario, but that obviously comes with risks regarding the weather. And while the Pride parade is traditionally on the closing day of Pride celebrations, Peterborough opens Pride Week with the parade as a way to get people excited about the week of events to follow.

Xtra: What are the main attractions of this year’s festival?

The main attractions this year include a coming-out workshop; the flag-raising ceremony and proclamation, read by Mayor Daryl Bennett; followed by the parade and Pride in the Park; a concert; a brunch; a roller derby; two film nights; a Positive Spaces workshop; two all-ages dances, including Peterborough Pride's actOUT show and dance; and a long list of other bar nights. There should be something for everyone.

None of these events would be able to take place without the support of the various partners and supporters of Peterborough Pride who give their time, space, products, services or finances to support Peterborough Pride. A big thank-you to everyone who helps out.

Visit PP’s official site for more information.