Hay River gets its Pride on

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo James Ritchie, left, and Jaeda Larocque take the stage at the open mic portion of the Hay River Pride event at the Doghouse Sportsbar last weekend.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
James Ritchie, left, and Jaeda Larocque take the stage at the open mic portion of the Hay River Pride event at the Doghouse Sportsbar last weekend.

Hay Riverites celebrated international Pride week in style last Saturday, with events for all ages spread throughout the day in different locations.

This year, the LGBTQ-rights-promoting event gained more traction in the community than ever before, with singer-songwriter Grey Gritt making the trip down from Yellowknife to play a Pride concert at the Doghouse Sportsbar in the evening, on top of the regular table set up outside the NWT Centennial Library during the day.

“It’s been lovely,” Gritt said. “I feel like folks here have a really open spirit and everybody was pretty chill.”

The scope of Pride events in town grew enormously from last year, when Hay River Pride organizer Jaeda Larocque and James Ritchie manned a solitary table in front of the library. While last year their efforts initiated conversations with about 15 people, Larocque said that this year they saw about twice as many.

“The importance of having a Pride event, or events in a small town, is to continue promoting our feeling of community,” Larocque told The Hub. “It’s not about ‘us versus them’ but about everybody coming together and just celebrating our differences.”

Having come out at 13, Larocque said it was important to her to have a range of events accessible to people of all ages. While the younger demographic couldn’t attend the concert and open mic night at the bar, they could take in the cupcakes and face-painting during the day.

For Gritt, who has played Pride events in Toronto and Sudbury, as well as Yellowknife, the experience was a special one.

“What I like about it is that it’s people-focused, an authentic experience,” Gritt said. “The great thing about small towns is that it’s almost set up to have those … I’m flattered to have been approached to play here tonight.”

Whether there specifically for the pride event or not, people filled the venue and enjoyed the live music, with patrons joining in the open mic night to support Gritt between sets. NWT Pride representatives made the trip from the capital with T-shirts and other loot to hand out. Larocque hazarded a guess that this was the first proper, organized pride event Hay River has ever had that was accessible to the general public.

“It hadn’t even happened yet and people were asking me about next year,” she said. “Hay River has been great in supporting this year’s event, on top of being a great place to live and feel safe regardless of sexuality or gender identity. The North has been amazing for being at the forefront of human rights, and I’m proud to call it home.”

-Sarah Ladik