The West Coast will be basking in positive vibrations and celebrating its inclusivity this weekend as Ucluelet hosts its third annual Pride Party and second annual Pride Walk on July 20.
Both events were launched by Ukee local Mike Cootes, who had enjoyed Pride celebrations in other communities and wanted to bring the experience to his hometown to both encourage and highlight the West Coast’s support for the LGBTQ+ community.
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He said showcasing that support is paramount to help anyone who may be struggling with their identity know that their community will love and accept them for who they are.
“It’s not to push them out of the closet, but to show them that they have a safe, accepting place,” he said. “People can be suffering or struggling with their own identity for a long time…The parade is an extra representation for the town, especially for visitors and longtime locals, to see that it is happening and it can happen and that there is no bias towards anybody.”
He said that while Ucluelet “is a very positive-outlook community,” support should never be silent and added that it’s important for visitors to see the town’s vibrant inclusiveness as well.
“I don’t think Ukee has ever shown a sour spot for the LGBTQ+ community but, at the same time, it’s nice to have representation of it and show that even small towns have a good look towards acceptance,” he said. “People have ideas about how small towns can go, especially a small fishing and logging village, but I’ve felt none of that pre-bias assumption from anybody.”
The Pride Walk will begin at Ucluelet’s Army, Navy and Air Force Veteran’s Club —1708 Peninsula Rd. — at 6 p.m. on Saturday, marching down Main Street and posing for the annual photo at Whiskey Dock before retracing its steps back to the ANAF where the party will run from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
READ MORE: Ukee set for second annual Gay Pride event
This year’s Pride Party will include music from DJ Cletus and a lip-sync competition at 10 p.m. where all are welcome to sign up and compete for a $100 grand prize by impressing a panel of three judges.
“We’re going to have tons of fun,” Cootes said adding that costumes are heavily encouraged and that the party will boast a strong disco theme to celebrate the wave of Pride events that occurred in the 1970s.
Cootes said he has been thrilled with the reception his local Pride events have received and that he’s enjoyed fielding excited questions from interested residents about when the next one will be.
“People have given me a lot of support…It feels really good because it shows that people are interested and they want it to keep going,” he said. “I want to give a big thanks to the community of Ucluelet and Tofino for the most outward support and I’m happy I’m able to give something back to the community that chose a positive outlook and is a place where people can be proud of who they are.”
He added he is grateful to the ANAF for hosting the event each year.