Kelowna News

The Okanagan feeling the pride; record turnout for LGBT events

Kelowna mayor Walter Gray wants to see even more people out of the Okanagan Pride Festival next year.

KELOWNA – A peaceful family and pet-friendly march along the downtown waterfront Saturday culminated into the biggest pride celebration the city has ever seen.

Save for an exuberant 'flash mob' breaking into dance, the march was a quiet procession. The rainbow-colours worn by participants (dogs included) performed a more symbolic action.

Still fairly nascent in Kelowna, pride days are celebrated in cities across Canada and globally to recognize the acceptance and equality of the LGTB community. Saturday's cap-off to pride week proved the tradition is growing roots in the Okanagan.

Okanagan Pride president Wilbur Turner announced the turnout was close to ten times that of last year's event. Nestled in City Park, people gathered for music, dance, food and drink, but the highlight of the day was the 'Pooches on Parade' show allowing pet owners a chance to flaunt their pride with their canine companions.

For Turner, the event was a show of love, not protest.  

“We are a family that unites across the world, so for those of you who are straight - you can be part of our family too,” Turner says. “We just want to be treated like everyone else: equally.”

And for some, that's still a challenge. They continue to experience homophobia in the Okanagan.

Lisa Von Pander and friend Jennifer Medlock say it's quite common to hear hateful comments when holding hands in public.

“We've heard “dike” hurled out of cars as they pass... What do you do?” Von Pander says. “Whenever I go to Vancouver, it's more liberal there... It's nice because you get a break.”

But she says it's encouraging to see the growth of Kelowna's pride festivities, which first started as a small dance at the Coast Capri Hotel.

“It's nice to see all these people here. They come out of the woodwork... I don't see them at any other events,” Von Pander says.

Mayor Walter Gray, joined by a handful of city councillors, also showed support for the celebration. He shared his hope to see even bigger crowds at next year's event.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at or call (250)718-0428.

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