Okanagan Pride Festival kicks off Saturday night

This year the festival will feature two marches, a spiritual celebration, movies, art, a beach party, a golf tournament and a wrap party.

The 2016 Okanagan Pride Festival kicks off Saturday in Kelowna.

The week-long festival features several events, including two marches — the second annual Trans Pride March from the Sails sculpture at the foot of Bernard Avenue to the Laurel Packing House on Aug. 9 and the larger Pride Rally and March from Stuart Park to City Park on Aug. 13 — as well as a launch party (Aug 6) , a spiritual celebration (Aug 7), a golf tournament and dinner (Aug 10), a drag competition (Aug 12),  a beach party featuring live music and the popular Pooches on Parade dog show (Aug.1) and the festival’s wrap-up event, the We Are One Pride dance party at the LeVel Night Club on Lawrence Avenue (Aug 13). Also, all next week as part of the festival “movies with momentum” will be shown at the First United Church downtown and the fourth annual Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art’s Pride Exhibition will be open to the public free of charge.

New this year will be another art-oriented event called Paint With Pride. It will be part of the festival’s launch party on Saturday evening at the Wine & Art Piano Bar on Lawrence Avenue.

The event will give attendees an opportunity to create their own artistic masterpieces on blank canvases, while enjoying a glass of wine and creative tips from an artist on hand.

Last year, hundreds turned out for Okanagan Pride Festival events, including 200 for the first Trans Pride March. The turnout surpassed the expectations of organizers. Many who took part called for gender orientation to be included in human rights legislation, a move the federal government made recently.

An even larger crown turned out to participate in the main Pride March a few days later.

Earlier this year, Kelowna’s mayor,Colin Basran, generated national news when he announced he would attend the inaugural Sugar Plum Ball, a drag event initiated after a Kelowna resident sarcastically labelled him “Mayor Sugar Plum” for his support of a rainbow-coloured crosswalk in the city.

Refusing to take it as the insult intended, Basran and Okanagan Pride organizers teamed up to create the Sugar Plum Ball, an event the mayor said he hopes will become an annual event in the city.

While the annual Pride festival celebrates the Okanagan LGBTQ+ community, organizers say everyone is welcome to attend festival events, particularly the marches. Some of the events are free and open to all ages while others are ticketed events and because of where they are being held, are restricted to those over 19 years of age.

For more information about Pride festival events, venues and tickets, go the Okanagan Pride website at okanaganpride.com.