Rainbow Flag raised as Strathroy holds first ever pride festivities
LONDON, ONT. -- It was an historic moment for the Middlesex County.
"Today is our first ever Strathroy Pride event," says Frank Emanuele, co-organizer of the first ever pride festivities in the municipality.
As the LGBT flag was raised outside of her City Hall office, Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden was smiling under her rainbow mask.
"We have an inclusive community," says Vanderheyden.
"Every single person in our community deserves respect and to be member of the community without labels and without judgement, that's why we’re here."
A small crowd gathered in a light rain for the opening ceremonies on Frank Street.
Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden (pink) poses with members of the Strathroy Pride committee (Brent Lale / CTV News)
Emanuele who moved to Strathroy two years ago with his partner and children, says he's felt welcomed and wants others to feel the same.
"It's Important to have events like this in small rural towns," says Emanuele.
"Often times our youth and LGBTQ community go to bigger cities for events like this. We wanted to have a space like this closer to home where people could meet others in the community and allies and have a good time."
Businesses around town have started to come on board, including the Rusty Wrench Brewing Co. owned by pride co-organizer Kirby Bennett.
"I work in mental health, so I see firsthand the differences that happen in community," says Bennett.
"I really wanted to be part of that change and do some education and have a safe space to come together. The more exposure to celebrating diversity then people can find something in themselves."
Pride flag flies at City Hall on Frank St. in Strathroy (Brent Lale / CTV News)
They've already made progress within the community as a couple told organizers via email they had never met another member of the LGBTQ community in 15 years. They want to play a role in next year's celebrations.
Emanuele says it's important for those who are gay to be visible.
"We don't hide that we are gay family, and we celebrate that every day. I think everybody should."
Sponsored by the Rainbow Optimist of Southwestern Ontario, the five-hour long event was held. They had drag queen story time, musical entertainment and a speakers panel.
And while this year's festivities were forced to go virtual, next year there are plans for a much bigger celebration. They will have a flag raising, a small parade and live activities in the park.