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Celebrate Your Awesome sees record support at annual event

By Sam Odrowski

An in-person celebration of all backgrounds, ages, religions, and sexual orientations returned to Mill Street on Saturday (June 18) for Celebrate Your Awesome's annual Pride and Diversity Day.

It's the first time in two years a celebration's been held at Mill Street, with the annual event being marked virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

This year's turnout was fantastic, surpassing attendance numbers from 2018 and 2019. Celebrate Your Awesome founder and committee member Jim Waddington said the event has grown leaps and bounds.

Fellow committee member, Ricky Schaede called the event a “smashing success.”

“We weren't quite sure what to expect, just because the last in person event had been so long ago,” he said. “But I think that it was like way more people than we've ever had before, and it was such a positive response.”

From early afternoon to late at night on Saturday, Mill Street was filled with live entertainment, featuring bands, soloists, dance groups, choirs, and drag queens.   

“I think people really enjoyed the daytime drag performance, the street was absolutely packed,” Schaede said. “The crowd really seemed energized and really into it.”

For the first time ever, Celebrate Your Awesome held the “Queerly Here” art market at Mill Square Park.

Schaede said there was lots of talented artists set up with booths showing off their work.

“That was an interesting new element of the event this year… a highlight for sure,” Schaede noted.

The celebration also featured “Community Zones”, which had booths from an array of social services and not-for-profit organizations providing information to attendees.

The need is strong for an event like Pride and Diversity Day for members of the 2SLBGTQIA+ community in Dufferin County, according to Schaede.

"I think really, with this event, we want people to know that no matter where you're from, or what your age or gender identity or sexual orientation is, that you're welcome in this community, in Orangeville, and in Dufferin County. That there's a place for you here and that there's other people like you here, just to create that feeling of sort of inclusion and belonging in this town,” Schaede told the Free Press. “It's important because for a lot of young, gay and queer people growing up here, they feel like they don't belong and then they leave town.”

He continued, “That's kind of a sad thing to grow up somewhere where you feel you don't belong, and I know for myself growing up what that was like, and I decided not to leave this town.”

Schaede said, through the event, he hopes it shows people they can feel a sense of belonging right here in Dufferin County.

“There's a place for you here,” he said. “You don't have to be ashamed to be who you are here, and I think that's sort of the main reason why we do it."

Schaede added that he noticed for a lot of young people, Celebrate Your Awesome's celebration last Saturday was their first Pride event and they got a lot out of it.

“I think it was pretty mind opening for a lot of young people. I talked to young person – they're a queer person – it was their first Pride event, and they really enjoyed seeing all the other like queer people out there. It kind of made them feel a bit more normal, I guess,” he noted.

“It makes them feel like safer in the town, and more comfortable expressing themselves authentically."

Schaede said he'd like to thank all the sponsors, committee members, volunteers, performers, and vendors who helped make this year's event “awesome.”

Looking ahead to next year's Pride and Diversity Day event, organizers plan on holding fundraisers in between to help offset the costs of putting it on. They're also looking at hosting pop-up social events.

Schaede said to watch Celebrate Your Awesome's Facebook page for updates and to send a message there if you're interested in joining the committee or getting more involved.

“We're always looking for young, energetic people who are looking to contribute,” he told the Free Press. “There's definitely space for more people to join us.”



Post date: 2022-06-23 12:48:22
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