Fière la fête marches on with virtual activities

By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Sherbrooke’s Fière la fête pride festival is adopting a new look this year as organizers nixed the traditional parade model in lieu of a hybrid virtual and in-person event schedule.
Fierté Sherbrooke Pride took over as lead organizer of the event last August and President Alexandre Rainville said he never expected his first year at the helm to be so challenging. He had already planned the entire event before the COVID-19 outbreak reached Quebec.
“We had to reinvent our programming,” said Rainville. “It caused a lot of problems for the organization because we had everything planned already.”
He immediately cancelled the parade, which he acknowledged was a sad moment for the organization. It forced the group to look at different options, but the organizer said he believes they will still be able to deliver an interesting event for the LGBT community.
Sherbrooke Pride decided to start with a virtual drag show on August 27, hosted by local drag queen Gina Gates. People can tune in online or watch the performance from L’Otre Zone, a bar located in Sherbrooke’s downtown area.
The main event takes place a couple days later on August 29. People can enjoy a full slate of activities including poetry readings, musical performances and a live drag show at L’Otre Zone. The show will also be live streamed for people not in attendance.
“We realized that putting everything online makes the event more accessible, especially to people who don’t want to be in noisy settings or people who can’t move around too much,” said Rainville.
He said it was never a question of cancelling the event outright. They were willing to put everything online before the provincial government gave the go-ahead for bars to reopen. Last year, festivities drew roughly 500 people, according to Rainville.
The organizer explained that the annual pride event is more than just a parade, it’s an important outlet for many people who struggle to find support in their day-to-day lives. The LGBT community witnesses a lot of suicides, he said, because many members feel isolated from the world.
“For a lot of people, it’s a really important time to show your pride,” Rainville explained. “It’s a time where we feel empowered, where we realize we aren’t alone in this life.”
While the pandemic remains at the top of everyone’s minds, he said the energy level from within the organization has been high. There is a lot of positivity and support in the planning room. He also recognizes it won’t be this difficult every year.
“It’s a lot of organization, a lot of things we’ve never done before, but we did a lot this year that we won’t be doing next year,” said Rainville.

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