KELOWNA - In the midst of Pride Week the idea of bringing a bit more colour to our city streets is getting some attention.
Spearheaded by SunFM DJ Ian MacKinnon, Okanagan Pride has launched a petition to bring a permanent rainbow coloured crosswalk to the streets of Kelowna. With over 500 signatures already, they're halfway to their goal.
Recognized across borders, the rainbow flag stands as the chosen symbol for diversity and acceptance of the LGBT community.
Okanagan Pride president Wilbur Turner says the idea germinated from media buzz around Vancouver's recent installation of rainbow crossings on all four sides of a Davie Street intersection. It quickly sparked discussion at local radio stations and was also mentioned by Kelowna mayor Walter Gray.
"The regional vice president for Bell Media was very interested in getting one put into Kelowna," Turner says.
Compared to bigger cities like Vancouver and Montreal with well-established gay villages, Kelowna has a ways to go.
"Downtown Kelowna doesn't really have that vibe even though it has the arts and culture district, it's still a small community," he says.
"But it's not lost on our community," Turner adds, who admits he calls his own street the gay village given the diversity of its residents.
"I call it the gaybourhood."
A pride colored crosswalk wouldn't be the first permanent symbol to touch downtown though.
A mural on the side of the Okanagan Pride building on Water Street features a vibrant grasping of two hands. It was funded by an arts and culture grant a few years back as part of a pride week celebration.
"But that's going to disappear because the owners are going to be demolishing the building to build a new hotel there," Turner says.
A rainbow crosswalk would be one way to fill the gap of having a visible marker of the gay community. A less-permanent, but equally colourful marker of pride week kicks off this Friday's celebrations.
A vegas-themed games night, Viva Las Pride will be hosted by the Laurel Packing House and will offer a unique combination of wine tasting, burlesque and gogo dancers.
"It's the first time ever Okanagan Pride is partnering with the Okanagan wine festival," Turner says, adding the joint festivals will be the first event of its kind in Canada.
To follow will be a repeat of last year's top event: the drag competition at the Kelowna's Actors' Studio, featuring performances, celebrity drag judges and ten competitors.
The pride march itself happens this Saturday, starting from Stuart Park at 11 a.m. By noon the parade will wind up at City Park where the mayor will read a proclamation to kick off an all-day festival. Free to all members of the public, the festival is packed with drag shows, bands including one Los Angeles based artist, a barbeque, beer garden, as well as a kids area.
One event to watch for is the pooches on parade.
"That's very popular," Turner says. "It's been brought back several years now."
Dancing will cap off the night at the Level night club for the Taste the Rainbow pride dance at 8 p.m., featuring a contestant from the TV series Rupaul Drag Race.
All festivities are thanks to a big team volunteers who put in unpaid hours to get Okanagan Pride week in action.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.