This year’s parade theme is Hand In Hand, and will feature eye-catching floats and almost 1,000 participants.
“The idea is, “Whose hand are you holding at York Pride?” It’s about who are you bringing out, who are you engaging with…come out, hold tight and just enjoy the experience. It’s the idea of togetherness…feeling unified and taking it all in,” said Jacob Gal, director of communications for York Pride, about this year’s theme.
“We are really getting into the idea of themes right now because we want to figure out what we can do to make the festival more interactive and engaging with the community…the most important thing is we give people an opportunity to connect with the festival in multiple ways and applying a theme lets us have fun, but it also gives the community a chance to be creative,” he said.
The fun kicks off at 3 p.m. at Queen and Main streets, travelling south on Main to Water Street.
Pride on Riverwalk takes place at Riverwalk Commons at the Newmarket Community Centre on Doug Duncan Drive on the same day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will feature an exciting lineup of local and international talent, as well as a midway, crafts, face painting and pop-up shops. Guests will also be able to visit The Grizzly Gardens beer garden featuring beer from Newmarket’s own Market Brewing Company.
Local restaurants will be offering pride-themed cuisine and drinks, including rainbow cider beer from local pub Hungry Brew Hops and a rainbow cheesecake from Cachet Supper Club.
The Business Improvement Area (BIA) of Newmarket has partnered with local sign design company, Sign Nation, to sponsor the rainbow window decals for downtown storefronts. Almost 30 businesses, including shops and restaurants in the downtown core, will have the rainbow stickers displayed in their storefronts in support of Pride Fest over the next few weeks.
“You can’t go anywhere else in York Region and see this many rainbows,” said Gal.
In addition to the fun activities, the LGBT organization will also be on site promoting events and activities for social and volunteer activities, as well as counselling and support services.
In the evening, there will be a mega performance with action-packed entertainment, including fireworks and pyrotechnics, fire dancers, Brazilian dancers and acoustic acts all being sponsored by Canadian Heritage and Main Street Realty.
“It’s going to be action packed and just a fun place that’s completely free,” said Gal.
He added this will be the biggest festival to date. Last year, Pride Fest was the most attended event in Newmarket for 2018 with 25,000 visitors.
“This year, we are expecting the same, or at least 5,000 to 10,000 more,” he said.
Gal said next year’s 20th anniversary festival will be even bigger and plans are already underway for the multi-day festival across the region for next spring.
“This is a testing point for a number of things we want to bring in for next year,” said Gal.
The team of seven volunteer organizers, including Gal, has been working hard all year to bring this event to life and is excited for the community to come and experience all the town has to offer.
“The team is excited to see everyone come out and be together in one space and showcase that pride is so much more than just being proud, it’s being around people that are just like you that you can relate to. It’s about enjoying good food, music and entertainment, and starting a dialogue and creating more visibility for the community,” said Gal.
“And for people who have never come out to Pride, it’s a celebration for everyone…come out just make friends and meet new people and enjoy another festival that York Region has to offer.”
If you want to get the party started a little early, there will be an event happening Wednesday, June 12 at Hui Hou Coffee House on Main Street from 7 to 10 p.m. called A Night For Love And Kindness. This night is to honour the anniversary of those who lost their lives in the shooting at Pulse Nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando, in June 2016.
The night is dedicated to youth, with an open stage concept with live music, open mics and snacks.
York Region has celebrated Pride Month for the past 19 years with festivities and events across the area.
Gal, who has been working with the York Pride Fest since 2012, said volunteering with the festival is a great way to network, gain valuable work experience and make friends. The team is always looking for people to help out and donate their time to making the festival a success.
“I can tell you by doing it for the last seven years, you come across all sorts of experiences…doing all the groundwork to make the festival happen…there’s never a dull moment and there’s always something to do,” he said.
The festival is free of charge and everyone is invited to come out and participate. For more information and a detailed list of events, you can visit the website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram @yorkpridefest.