The size and success of Fort St. John’s first Pride parade surprised many. The parade, held on June 25, attracted around 200 people, most of them dressed up in rainbows and sparkles.
“I was a bit nervous about getting involved. Fort St. John gets a reputation for being a bit of a redneck community,” Heather Padderson.
“But seeing all these people here, and the support we’ve gotten, it’s proof that this really really is a diverse town. I mean I’ve always felt accepted, but not everyone does.”
Her two sons, Jonah, 11, and Isaac, 5, were both decked out on Saturday with tie-died clothes that they did as a family, and rainbow painted faces.
When asked why he came to the parade, Jonah said simply, “Because they’re both my moms.”
Padderson’s wife Joan said, “It’s a major thing. I never thought I’d see the day.”
Padderson used to co-ordinate movie nights and other events for the local LBGT community, but when she became pregnant with Jonah more than 11 years ago, the events sort of fizzled. Now she’s on her way to completing a degree in social work, and plans to take up the role of co-ordinating and developing a resource centre for the community.
“The funding is there, there just needs to be someone to apply for it. So that’s what I want to do,” she said. “This is the start of a community. We hope to have a library, with resources and things. Vancouver has had this for 40 years. It’s about time we did too.”
Their sons have had no trouble at school when they tell their friends they have two moms. Kids might be a bit confused at first, but accept it easily. “We’re raising a new generation of people who are aware and accepting,” Padderson said.
By the time the walk arrived at Centennial Park, it’s ending point, organizer Trevor Johnson beamed with relief.
“I was terrified it would be really small,” he said.
“It’s amazing to see how many people came, and dressed up. I was worried no one would be able to tell it was a Pride parade, that it would just be 50 people walking.”
Johnston was excited to see how many people, who he knows to be closeted, still walked in the parade and dressed up.
“There’s a lot of people here who are closeted, because they can lose their jobs,” he said. “But I see people here who I know are majorly closeted, but they’re still here, and they got dressed up.”
Padderson is looking forward to making next year’s event even better. “This year was a bit of a last minute thing. We’re starting tomorrow to plan for next year,” she said.
Originally published June 25, 2016 on Alaska Highway News.