It was windy but the chilly breeze didn’t seem to damper anyone’s spirits. Draped and dressed in rainbows, bearing large homemade signs, the group of 25 people – and a rather intimidatingly sized fire truck – waited for the festive parade to begin.
The walk from the corner of Main Street and West Street to the DSB Fowlow building of the college on Massachusetts Drive isn’t a long one, maybe half an hour at a brisk pace. Still, it was long enough for drivers and passers-by to stare and honk their horns, sometimes even waved in support of the small group of smiling LGBT members and allies that marched down one of the longest streets in Stephenville.
“I love you guys,” screamed a young girl out of the window of her father’s truck, to cheers from the small gathering. Some were not so fond; an elderly woman in a red car showed blatant disgust as she drove by, one of the rare cars that didn’t honk loudly and repeatedly.
One man in his car yelled: “you don’t belong in there, get out,” to a woman who identifies as straight. Perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, but despite its intent, it’s still taken for the worst and talked about among the group.
In a town that has heavy religious influences from many different belief systems, it’s only natural to expect this kind of mixed reaction said Chantelle Drake, a proud LGBT member and supporter. “Some religious groups don’t like us very much, we’re all going to Hell.” It’s laughed off, brushed aside as simply a sign of the changing times, and the rainbow flag is held high as the procession continued.
It’s this kind of behaviour, though, that is the reason why the parades exist. “This is why we’re here,” one woman commented. “This is why we need to keep doing this.”
Drake carried a picture of her best friend Andrew and his husband, Stephan, as she walked. “They’re in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon right now,” she said, holding the picture aloft in the wind for a photo. “But I’m carrying them here in spirit.”
Younger children on scooters, bemused and curious, asked what is happening as the fire truck passes. “It’s a pride parade,” one pointed out, and they spend several minutes darting in and out of the crowd to the older marchers’ amusement. Managers and store workers watch out windows and elderly people with strollers wave at the group.
Jane Robinson, co-chair of the women’s council in Stephenville, chatted idly with the other marchers and shouted triumphantly, “be loud, be proud,” as she walked.
Two children squabbled over who will lead the other. Their mother, Maria Hickey, chastised them gently; “Hey, no fighting. This is for love.”
Despite the chill in the air, by the time the fire truck and the marchers reached the College of the North Atlantic, the brisk walk had made most people warm and hungry. Luckily in the back, there was cake, hot dogs and hamburgers for the happy, tired parade.
As Robinson counted out the final tally, Drake eagerly commented, “If we have 25 this year, hopefully we’ll have 50 next year – and more the year after that.”
All in all, everyone agreed, a great success.