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New West Pride Week 2023: A celebration of diversity and inclusion

Fun and financially sustainable: New offerings await at New West Pride Week 2023
Pride returns: The New West Pride street festival returns to Columbia Street on Saturday Aug. 19. photo Jennifer Gauthier

Some old favourites – and some new additions – are in the works for New West Pride Week 2023.

The New West Pride Society is hard at work on plans for the 14th annual Pride Week 2023 celebrations, which take place from Aug. 10 to 20.

“Pride is an amazing opportunity for our community, both allies and queer people to gather and celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of gender and sexual orientations,” said Katie Stobbart, president of the New West Pride Society. “But it’s also something else; while homophobia and transphobia threaten the well-being of our neighbours, friends and family on an international scale, our Pride celebrations are an important signal to our community and beyond that New Westminster is a place of belonging for all.”

Don Ralph, a member of the New West Pride Society’s board of directors, said Pride Week includes more than a week of activities, such as brunches, karaoke and yoga events, and a Pride Hoedown. He said a flag-raising ceremony will take place at New Westminster City Hall at noon on Friday, Aug. 11 and a kickoff party will take place at 6 p.m. that evening at Eighth + Eight at the Massey Theatre complex.

The New West Pride street festival returns to Columbia Street on Saturday, Aug. 19. It includes a variety of performers on three stages, roving entertainment on Columbia Street, food trucks, vendors, a Family Zone put on by Family Place and more.

“In addition to what you may have come to expect from our annual event, we’ve got a couple of new surprises this year,” board member Jeremy Perry said at the July 10 council meeting. “For the first time, we’ll have a site-wide liquor license, which will give guests the ability to wander the festival site with a drink in hand, as well as providing a new source of revenue for the society. This is one thing that we’re doing to make the festival both fun, but also financially sustainable.”

Perry said another fun addition to this year’s Pride Week is a 50/50 draw, which follows up on a recent 50/50 draw that raised more than $2,000 for the society.

“Tickets will be available for purchase the two weeks leading up to the street festival, so watch our social media,” he said. “We hope the entire community will participate in that, as this is a funding stream that is trying to help us be able to continue to put this festival on for years to come.”

Kevin Lee, vice-president of New West Pride, said the society puts on Pride Week but it also offers events at other times of the year, including social drop-ins at local restaurants and pubs on the second Tuesday and last Thursday of each month.

In addition to two temporary galleries that will open during Pride Week – one at Columbia Square and another at Eighth + Eight, a year-round queer art gallery is being launched in New Westminster during Pride Week.

“We’re hoping to have between four to six exhibits every year in the heart of New Westminster’s downtown at the Mood Swing Café Pub,” Lee said. “This is … in collaboration with Mood Swing Café and Bar, Arts New West, New West Artists, Arts in the Borough, Eighth +Eight and Arietta Art Studio. “

At its July 10 meeting, the City of New Westminster proclaimed Aug. 10 to 20 as Pride Week, which aims to promote education in diversity, equality and belonging, as well as providing opportunities for 2SLGBTQQIA+ community members to connect for the good of all.

“Internationally and close to home, homophobia, transphobia and hateful rhetoric and actions are threatening the peace, well-being an lives of two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Questioning, intersex and asexual people, as well as people who are allies to or identify with the community yet cannot be restricted by a label,” said the city’s proclamation. “New Westminster city council’s first strategic priority is community belonging and connecting, which is viewed through a context of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism.”

Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said it’s important to recognize that anti-queer and anti-trans rhetoric is rising, not just south of the border, but in this community as well.

“I think we just have to name that and push back against it,” she said. “New West is such a beautiful and inclusive community where a lot of people do feel safe, and we need to keep it that way by explicitly standing up, especially for trans people in our community, who are always at most risk.”

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