The History of Belleville Pride
Each year in Quinte, for about the past ten years, there’s been a summer event called Pride In The Park. In the beginning, a kind of community picnic, pot luck and barbecue, it began in recent years to grow into an afternoon of games and crafts, entertainment and a real sense of celebration. Many of the latter additions to the day came because of the young people - in particular some of the members of the youth support group called
SAY OutLoud (see http://www.sayoutloud.ca).
In the summer of 2012, the youth group wanted to do something like a Pride March or parade to the picnic. The shortness of time meant that organizing something like a parade would be impossible. Instead, they decided to have a Pride Walk. Because it was just a group of people walking on the sidewalks, there were no issues with traffic, no need for a permit. On the day, about 40 people showed up - many, though not all of them, young people in their teens and twenties. Some wore costumes - a couple put on drag. Others carried signs or rainbow flags.
The walk was quite successful and empowering. There was good response from onlookers and cars passing by honked their horns in support.
And so it was that for the summer of 2013, a full-fledged Pride Planning Committee was formed and took on arrangements for both a Parade and Pride In The Park.
The result was beyond expectations. While the committee sought a permit for something like a dozen vehicles and, perhaps, a hundred people, quite honestly that was considered to be beyond possibility, but at least it was something to shoot for.
In the end, on August 24th 2013, some 23 vehicles entered the parade and 300 people walked or rode down Front Street, along Dundas all the way to Zwicks Centennial Park by the Bay of Quinte. The parade started with the mayor reading a Pride Proclamation which had previously been unanimously adopted by City Council and a scroll was read from the Premier of Ontario. All during the week before the day, a rainbow flag flew proudly over Belleville City Hall.
A couple of hundred people watched the parade along Front Street and, in the end, several hundred people spent the afternoon in the Park eating, dancing, and making merry.
Since that time there has been no doubt that Belleville’s Pride In The Park and Pride March will continue as an annual celebration and will feature as one of the city’s most colourful summer events.