The Southwest Nova Pride Association is cancelling its Pride parade after it didn't secure enough volunteers to meet the Town of Yarmouth's safety requirements.
The parade was set to take place in the town on Saturday, Sept. 23, as part of the association's annual Pride festival that covers Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne counties.
The decision to cancel the parade was made following a community meeting on Wednesday. The association had more than doubled its number of festival volunteers, but still did not secure enough to safely co-ordinate the parade.
"Safety is the biggest, most crucial thing for us, especially in an event like the parade where we're not just looking after ourselves, we're looking after all the participants, everyone that's volunteering to join us with that," said Alden Mathieu, the association's chair.
"It was a heartbreaking decision, but we had to do it."
There have been strict rules around parades in Yarmouth ever since a child was killed after falling beneath a float at a Santa Claus parade in 2018.
Mathieu said the association needed 25 adult volunteers to support the parade to meet Yarmouth's requirements.
The association had recruited about 20 volunteers, but some were also needed at one of its other big events on the same day — the community Pride fair.
"The community fair was something we did for the first time last year where we had performers and vendors and that also went really well last year," Mathieu said.
"It was a great kind of family friendly venue because we have a lot of queer parents here, so we're doing that again."
Mathieu said all other Pride events will be happening during the seven-day festival, including drag shows, educational talks and crowd favourites like Pride trivia and board game night.
The association's first Pride festival was held in September 2017, and has continued to host events each year. The festival has been held in September ever since, to include students from the NSCC Yarmouth campus.
The last Pride parade, however, was held in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amy Thibeau lives in Yarmouth and is the president of the Southwest Nova Scotia chapter of PFLAG, a national charity that supports the LGBTQ community. She said was taken aback when the parade was cancelled.
"I honestly thought that it was going to go through and I was a little disappointed," Thibeau said.
"But I understood why, [given] the lack of volunteers. I understood that. They just weren't able to pull it together this year."
The Southwest Nova Pride Associtation held its first community Pride fair in 2022. (James Turpin)
Thibeau said she does have high hopes for next year.
"I think that they'll reevaluate and they'll take a step back and I feel like that they'll change some things about how things were done and and hopefully the community will come together bigger, stronger and better next year," she said.
Mathieu said he has heard from community members who were disappointed by the decision, but they've been understanding and looking forward to next year.
He said the association has already started planning the 2024 festival, and is reconsidering how it will be structured.
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