Muskoka Pride organizers say three years of work culminated July 21 with Pride flag-raising ceremonies being held for the first time in all six of the region’s municipalities.
The ceremonies mark Muskoka Pride Week, which runs until July 27.
Pride organizers say it is the first year that the townships of Muskoka Lakes, Georgian Bay and Lake of Bays have raised the rainbow flag. Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst have raised the flag for several years, since Muskoka Pride started in 2009.
The flag raisings are a symbol of acceptance of the LGBT population of Muskoka, according to Heather Hay, chair of Muskoka Pride.
“It says to the people in Muskoka that our community is diverse and inclusive, an important message for residents and visitors,” Hay says. “It’s important for young people to see it and know that they’re welcome in their own community.”
Pride board member Shawn Forth grew up in Muskoka and says he understands the feeling of isolation that comes with thinking you are alone.
“Visibility is important for the LGBTQ community so that you don’t feel isolated,” he says. “Pride Week is not just about tolerance and acceptance; it’s about celebrating the rich diversity in our community.”
“It is significant that all communities of Muskoka are recognizing Pride Week this year,” he says, “because there are LGBTQ residents all over Muskoka who want to feel supported by their town.”
A week of festivities will include window displays in local businesses, a photo contest and events each day throughout Muskoka. Celebrations will wrap up Sunday, July 27, with the sixth annual Muskoka Pride Picnic at Annie Williams Park in Bracebridge.