Windsor Star
September 09, 2021

After more than a year apart and few opportunities to celebrate, Windsor’s LGBTQ2S community kicked off its annual Pride Fest Wednesday afternoon. The Windsor Pride Community, Windsor-Essex Pride Fest and Family Services Windsor Essex launched QLINK for youth aged 12 to 29.

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest raised the inclusive Pride flag in Charles Clark Square Wednesday afternoon, marking the start of the 29th annual Pride Fest in Windsor-Essex — and a return to in-person celebrations after last year’s virtual events.”The collaborative received $714,800 in funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to launch the peer-led supports and programs. All of the programs will be offered free of charge.

“But here we are, not being stopped and raising our flag and, for sure, not stopping us from celebrating our community,” said Wendi Nicholson, president of Windsor Essex Pride Fest.

“So much has happened for everyone. Lost jobs, lost love — but certainly not lost weight,” Nicholson quipped. The Ontario Trillium Funding will fund the program for three years.

This year there won’t be a Pride parade, Nicholson said, but there will be plenty of other events for the entire community to enjoy. Two shows, Unplugged and Queens of Pride, will each have two performances over the weekend. Open Mic with Pride kicks off the festival Thursday night and the Windsor Art Gallery will host a Pride zine workshop Sunday afternoon, among other activities.

There will be a marketplace at Lanspeary Park Saturday and Sunday, Nicholson added, and two Pride Day shows Sunday afternoon.

Social distancing and masks are required, and capacity limits are in effect.

In raising the flag Wednesday, members of Windsor Essex’s Indigenous communities and local politicians were invited to speak. Mel Lucier hosted the afternoon’s event.

“We all need to remember that just by being here, by being true and honest to who we are and living our lives with integrity, we affect change every day,” Lucier said. “There’s a new generation of our community coming up, redefining family, redefining love and following in our footsteps.”

The Pride flag was lowered to half mast out of respect for the Indigenous and two-spirit community. The Eagle Flight Singers from London performed a flag honour song.

Nicholson became the festival’s president last year, only for there to be few in-person activities in the early months of the pandemic. So it’s exciting to be organizing the festival in earnest this year.

“Oh my gosh, it’s a big chunk of my life back,” Nicholson said. “We do it for the love. Someone’s got to do it, I love doing it and it’s become such a big part of me.”

Nicholson said the Pride parade is usually a highlight, but this year, just being able to bring the community together to celebrate is enough.

“It means everyone can come together,” Nicholson said. “We’re able to … bring the community and anyone else that wants to come, together. Pride Fest is not just about the LGBT2S+ community, it’s for everyone.

“This year, just being able to have the festival, that grows my heart.”

Windsor Essex Pride Fest runs now through Sunday. Find the complete list of events and details at https://www.wepridefest.com/”}”>wepridefest.com. Many events are free, but tickets are often required for contact tracing purposes.

By Kathleen Saylors