2015 marked the fifteenth year of pride celebrations in York Region. This year:
Official Flag-Raising Ceremony at York Regional Police HQ
On June 1st, York Regional Police hosted an official Pride flag-raising ceremony at their regional headquarters in Aurora. Not only was this their first ever Pride flag-raising ceremony but also the first Pride Week in life of their internal LGBTQ support network (ISN) which had been launched earlier in the year. The flag-raising ceremony was preceded by refreshments and brief formalities during which greetings were conveyed by Chief Eric Jolliffe, a representative of the new ISN group, Linda Keith (president of PFLAG, York Region) and Jacob Gal (York Pride Fest's media and events coordinator). Jacob also took the opportunity to present to the Chief a "diversibear", dressed in Pride Colours, as a token of thanks and recognition of York Regional Police's significant contributions to the promotion of inclusivity and their valued ongoing partnerships with all of our region's key LGBT organizations. During the event, York Regional Police unveiled their new Pride vehicle which was subsequently featured at several Pride Week events including our Pride Parade.
Official Flag-Raising Ceremony in Aurora
On Friday June 12th, history was made when the Town of Aurora hosted their first official Pride flag-raising ceremony at Aurora Town Hall. The event was attended by Mayor Geoff Dawe, members of council, Chief Eric Jolliffe and officers of York Regional Police, as well as representatives from York Pride Fest, My House Rainbow Resource of York Region, PFLAG York Region and other local organizations.
Official Flag-Raising Ceremony in Richmond Hill
On June 13th, the Town of Richmond Hill hosted an official Pride flag-raising ceremony at their civic centre. The event was attended by Mayor Dave Barrow, MPP Reza Moridi, members of council, York Regional Police officers, representatives from York Pride Fest, My House Rainbow Resource of York Region, PFLAG York Region, AIDS Committee of York Region, Richmond Hill United Church and other local organizations.
Pride Church Service
Continuing a tradition that dates back to 2002, York Region's 2015 Pride Week festival included a Pride Church Service at Richmond Hill United Church on Sunday June 14th. The service was delivered by Revs. Linda Butler and Warren McDougall with music provided by Barry Peters, York Pride Fest's favourite Music Director. The service also included participation by members of PFLAG York Region and was followed by a social hour with light refreshments kindly provided by members of the church.
Official Flag-Raising Ceremony in Georgina
As for the Town of Aurora and York Regional Police, 2015 was also the first year that the Town of Georgina hosted an official rainbow flag-raising ceremony. However, unlike Aurora, the weather was fine and sunny in Georgina on the morning of June 15th, for this historic celebration in the north of the region. Mayor Margaret Quirk was accompanied by MPP Julia Munro, town councillors, community members and representatives from various local organizations including PFLAG York Region and York Pride Fest. During the ceremony a Pride cake and refreshments were shared by all in attendance.
Official Flag-Raising Ceremony in Markham
Later the same day, the City of Markham raised the Pride flag to show their support for the LGBT community. Mayor Frank Scarpitti, MPP Michael Chan, city councillor Valerie Burke and Amanda Knegje of PFLAG York Region spoke during a short formal ceremony, as did Jesse Caplan, a transgender youth from Markham. They were joined by city councillors, staff, representatives from several organizations and guests during the subsequent flag-raising outside the civic centre followed by a reception in the Grand Hall.
Social Evening At The Falcon
Firkin in Richmond Hill
On the evening of Monday June 15th we hosted an informal social evening at the Falcon
Firkin pub in Richmond Hill. The event was attended by many community members of various age groups, their families and friends, as well as youth from York Region GSA.
Karaoke and Wings Night in Sutton
On the evening of Wednesday 17th June, we hosted an LGBT Pride event in Sutton - a wings and karoke night at the Mansion House Restaurant and Bar. Attendees enjoyed great company, wings for 5.99 and participated in Karaoke, organized by VideoMeKaroke.
Social Evening At Made In Mexico in Newmarket
On the evening of Thursday 18th June, we hosted our third social evening at Made in Mexico in Newmarket.
York Region's Pride Parade!
On Saturday June 20th 2015, we staged York Region's third annnual Pride Parade on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill.
In contrast to previous years, the parade proceeded from North to South starting at Crosby Avenue and ending at the parking lot between Elgin Barrow Arena and Town Park - the venue for our concurrent Pride In The Park event.
York Pride Fest was proud to welcome Elaine Hampson and Marilyn Byers as our Parade Grand Marshals for 2015. More than two decades ago, as a public health nurse, Elaine became a specialist in LGBT health issues and launched the region's first LGBT youth support group. She continued to run that group for twenty years up until her retirement in 2013. Also in the 90's, Marilyn launched PFLAG York Region after finding out that her son was gay. She was subsequently president of our region's PFLAG chapter almost continuously until her retirement in 2012, during which time it grew from strength to strength.
Ever since our first Pride parade in 2013, York Pride Fest organizers strived to include one particular parade group that has, for years, been notorious for their ability to entertain. In past years there had always been scheduling conflicts which prevented their participation, but this year we were delighted that ROTC, aka "Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps", were able to join our parade. Unfortunately, due to difficulties in attracting new members, ROTC had decided to disband after this year's Toronto Pride. We were therefore especially honoured to be able to welcome them to York Region for their penultimate performance.
More than forty other participants represented various organizations in our parade, almost double the number for the previous year. New groups, participating for the first time this year, included: Canadian Centre for Men
Families, City of Markham, Cupe 905, Krasman Centre, Project Beam On, Rainbow Nursing Interest Group, Regional Municipality of York Region, Richmond Green Marching Band, SnapD, Town of Aurora, Town of Newmarket, Town of Richmond Hill, VetMobile, We Can Change The World Day and Wilson Niblett who kindly provided all of the cars for our Grand Marshals and dignitaries.
Pride In The Park
Throughout the afternoon of the parade, Town Park in Richmond Hill was home to the first edition of our Pride in the Park event. It included a community fair together with food, drink, live entertainment, fully interactive kids zone, a film and video presentation and more.
Our stage delivered live perfomance from Kyle Layton Thomas
Break The Sun, Thiago Derucio
Soren Nik, Jordana's Dance Studio
MaizyF, and The Wallflower by Rainbow Umbrella.
The community fair enabled our guests to connect with more than 25 local community organizations and businesses offering information on LGBT topics, other equity related services or LGBT relevant products.
For families our kids zone offered bouncy castles, slides and sumo wrestling as well a range of other fun activities.
Meanwhile, York Region's PLAYR Video Festival (previously known as the Multimedia Film Festival of York Region) screened of a number of short films at the nearby Elgin Barrow Area.
The following weekend, we participated in the Toronto Pride parade on June 28th. This was the eighth consecutive year that LGBT organizations of York Region had been represented in the Toronto parade. Our parade volunteers included representatives from several organizations including the York Region GSA (YRGSA).