Sara Hamil strolls through downtown Jasper with her partner, admiring the preparations underway for this year’s Pride Festival.
“One thing we do every year for Pride is a window decorating contest,” says the festival’s co-chair. “[The] downtown core is very warm and welcoming. Most, if not all, businesses have rainbow stickers or flags all year round. We take that extra step to make sure the LGBTQ community knows they’re welcome.”
Now in its eighth year, the festival was created to showcase Jasper as a safe, welcoming, and inclusive destination for LGBT people. The festival’s growth each year is due in part to Jasper’s tight-knit community members.
Lynn Wannop loves seeing her community come together. As banners and rainbow stickers continue to pop up on the eve of the festival. Wannop says she’s honoured to be an integral part of it all.
As a Pride board member and as the owner of Coco’s Café (which proudly shows off its rainbow sticker year round in its window), Wannop gets to both experience and help foster the festival’s welcoming warmth.
“Businesses are a big part of Pride here, and it’s so nice to see them put stickers up,” Hamil says.
Despite Jasper’s small population of about 5,000 people, its Pride festival is widely embraced and any hurdles that creep up are addressed together. Hamil notes that big festival spaces are in short supply because development is limited in the national park surrounding the town. To remedy this, the Pride board has worked with businesses and sponsors to create spaces for some of the festival’s events like the Saturday party, for example, which was moved from a small bar to Jasper’s activity centre, which can accommodate up to 400 people.
Festival manager Tucker says the celebration’s expansion would not have been possible without the generous support and sponsorship of Jasper’s local businesses.
This year’s festival will also feature a new event specifically for youth, after students from Jasper’s gay-straight alliance asked to be included in the celebrations. Last year’s gala, hosted by the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, was for adults only, but this year the lodge, working with the Pride board, is hosting a second gala specially for teens. Hamil is excited to see how far Jasper Pride has come in just a few short years.
She recalls meeting a couple from the UK last year who were visiting as many Pride festivals as they could. “We’ve been to a lot of festivals around the world, but Jasper is the warmest we’ve been to because we feel like we are leaving with friends,” Hamil says they told her.
Stroll around its main streets dotted with rainbow stickers and banners nestled among the Rockies and you too could experience the hospitality of Jasper’s small-town Pride.