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New Sunshine Coast society ramps up for Pride Month

'For a small rural community, there is a lot of really strong support': Sunshine Coast Pride Society formalized and is gearing up for June's Pride Month. Events include a full-scale parade and community celebration on June 2.
Pride Month volunteers meet at Mission House under the leadership of the newly-organized Sunshine Coast Pride Society.

Ambitious plans are afoot to celebrate the 2SLGBTQAI+ community on the Sunshine Coast, with the newly incorporated Sunshine Coast Pride Society kicking off Pride Month through a full-scale parade and community celebration on June 2.

The group, formerly a loosely affiliated corps of volunteers, achieved official society status in January of this year. 

“It felt pretty exciting,” said Laura Smith, its president. “There’s been Pride going on here on the Coast for a number of years, and even as a group of people with no formal structure to us, we got lots of support. But one thing that’s challenging is that you can’t access grants or sponsorships if you don’t have a formal nonprofit attached to your name.”

According to Shayne Forster, who took over organizing Pride in the Park at Davis Bay following the pioneering leadership of Laurie Lesk, the new organization will be equipped to support unique community needs more effectively. One of its first initiatives was creating a systematic volunteer orientation program.

“We wanted it to be a baseline for any volunteer, for any kind of Pride thing, because included in the orientation was a 101 on sexuality and gender,” Forster said. “Also, a history of Pride here on the Coast and a history of Pride in general, plus leadership tips.”

For Adriana Lademann, who first volunteered in 2018 at Pride in the Park by hosting a booth where visitors penned anonymous love letters, they noticed a remarkable level of acceptance on the Sunshine Coast compared to big-city Pride events.

“It was so wholesome and cute and very family-oriented,” Lademann said. “For a small rural community, there is a lot of really strong support and I think by creating a central hub, like the Pride Society, we can find out who those allies are and highlight them to the community so that we know where to go that is going to be accepting, safe, uplifting and celebratory.”

The group is considering programs that complement and support the work of the Gender Diverse Network run through the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre. Smith is pushing to offer assistance to individuals who are making changes to legal documentation related to their gender markers or names. Forster envisions employment opportunities for young queer persons, or a fund for gender-affirming products and legal advice.

The newly-formed society launched a fundraising campaign to cover operations of its first year. Lademann, the treasurer, noted that the response to the “Be a Gem” outreach has been surprising. “A lot of our ‘gems’ are businesses that I’d never even heard of,” they said, “and they are donating upwards of $1,000 to the festival. There are a lot more gems out there than coal.”

The June 2 Pride Festival will feature Delta-based drag king Justin Abit, plus performances by the Pine ‘N’ Sandy drag troupe and DJ E-List. Following the Pride March (which starts at noon at the Davis Bay Pier), a group of volunteers on the Mission Point grounds will offer a new service this year: onsite emotional safety. “If people need to process anything, we’ll have people who can do mental health first aid,” explained Forster.

Changes to the beer garden will allow participants to wander the site, remaining with family members as they explore a range of vendors and exhibitors. A group from St. John’s United Church will be among those providing volunteer resources (“the United Church is the only affirming church in Canada that by policy supports queer and trans people,” added Forster.)

Organizers who have been leading weekly work parties at Mission Point House chose “No Place Like Home” as the 2024 festival theme. “It’s a nod to the fact that we love it here,” said Lademann. “We don’t want to lose anybody. We want everyone to know this is a place they can come home to.”

A full list of Pride Month events — including movie nights, dances, and a golf tournament — is available at The newly formed society has launched a web presence at