The Hyack Festival Association is giving New Westminster's Pride event a huge promotional boost.
The association is lending the local Pride Society its float to use in the upcoming Vancouver Pride Parade on Aug. 5 - an event that draws thousands of people to Vancouver's West End for one of the biggest - and most flamboyant - parades in the Lower Mainland.
This is the first year the Royal City Pride Society - which runs a much more family-oriented gathering in the park, among other events, for its Pride festivities being held Aug. 16 to 19 - will have a presence at the popular downtown parade.
It is also the first time in 41 years that Hyack has lent out its float, Shelly Reinhart, Royal City Pride Society president, told The Record recently.
"It's maybe the first time in 41 years, but I don't think we've ever been asked, that I know of," Hyack Festival Association executive director Douglas Smith said with a laugh.
The City of New Westminster's director of legislative services and communications, Rick Page, initiated the move, Smith said.
"He called me and proposed that we try to get connected with Royal City Pride Society, you know what would be the possibility of doing that, and it's kind of gone from there, and we're delighted to be able to make it available and showcase the City of New Westminster through the local pride society in an iconic parade like the pride parade in Vancouver," Smith said.
Smith said the association is glad to give the Pride Society a platform to promote their efforts.
"I'm so happy we could do that for them, and if it helps drive attendance for their event, if it helps showcase New Westminster that's exactly what we are trying achieve, absolutely," he said.
Reinhart said she was thrilled when the float offer came through.
"I was so excited," she said. "Are you serious, really? That's a big responsibility, but absolutely, we'd love to do it."
The plan is to have float participants "wear their colours" by dressing brightly. This year's Royal City Pride Society theme is "Let your colours reign."
"I think it means something different for everybody," Reinhart said about the theme. "For me, let your colours reign means, everybody is a colourful person. Let your colours reign, for me, means I'm a colourful personality
- be who you are, be authentic."
Reinhart and other members of the Pride Society walked in this year's Hyack Parade in May, which was a moving experience for her.
"I really didn't know how we would be accepted. I was serious about that, and as we were going down the street, honking and saying hi to people, who shocked me the most, were the older people. There were a lot of seniors, and they knew who we were because we had the banner up ... many seniors (were) waving and so excited and so warm and welcoming," she said. "It actually made me totally emotional. It made me feel so welcome, and I thought 'Wow, I didn't know that that would be my experience because I've been in the Vancouver Pride parade before, and that's a very different feeling, but this is my local town.'"
Reinhart moved to New Westminster four years ago and from the start felt welcome here.
She also acknowledged the support of the city, which has given the society a $5,000 grant - for the first time since the Royal City Pride Society launched in 2010. The society will receive the grant after the Pride event next month.
"Just knowing that that money is coming to us makes such a huge difference for us," she said.
Reinhart also noted that Mayor Wayne Wright and city councillors have shown up at different Pride events.
"For us, that's a stamp of approval," she said. "The fact that when we received our grant it was unanimous - that says something."
This year's event includes a kick-off performance by the Laff Riot Girls comedy troupe on Thursday, Aug. 16.
There is a Stonewall-inspired dance on Friday, Aug. 17 at the Heritage Grill.
A fundraiser - called Hills and Heels - for the Lookout Society will start at around noon on Saturday, Aug. 18.
Participants will meet out front of the Urban Gypsy on Columbia Street, then saunter, walk or sashay up the hill in their runners, boots or heels.
Afterward, there's a family-friendly Pride gathering at Tipperary Park. That same night there is a dance for adults.
A brunch on Sunday, Aug. 19 will cap off the weekend.
Reinhart said everyone is welcome to attend the events (though minors can't go to the night-time happenings).
"We welcome our straight allies to come out and volunteer with us, to come and join the board," she said. "The whole goal of all of us who are currently board members, we are seeing the growth of New Westminster, and we are seeing the potential of what can happen in New West, and we just want to be part of that. We want to be there in supporting our city ... and supporting our community."
For more information about the Royal City Pride Society, visit www.royalcitypridesociety.com.