Pride flag ceremony held in Ponoka

(Photos by Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)(Photos by Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Town councillors Clayton Nelson and Teri Underhill. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)Town councillors Clayton Nelson and Teri Underhill. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Tanya Heyden-Kaye. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)Tanya Heyden-Kaye. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Local recording artist Shalaine Stebner sings a few numbers. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)Local recording artist Shalaine Stebner sings a few numbers. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

An official Pride flag ceremony was held at the Environmental Services Building (old fire hall) on Monday, June 28. The ceremony was started with an Treaty 6 land acknowledgement.

“Pride is really important, and it’s even more important in a small town in Alberta,” said Tanya Heyden-Kaye, one of the organizers of the event.

“(That is) because there are still people out there who are convinced that they are better off dead than being themselves.”

Heyden-Kaye noted that June 28 marked the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots, making it an appropriate day for the flag raising.

“When I say that a Pride flag in Ponoka is suicide prevention, I’m not being dramatic, I’m just being honest, and all of you being here today, being supportive of each other and the town being supportive of us, is suicide prevention as well.”

The event, which was shortened due to high temperatures, was hosted by the Ponoka Pride and Community GSA and facilitated by the Town of Ponoka, with councillors Teri Underhill and Clayton Nelson in attendance. Organizers included Heyden-Kaye, Jessica Jones and Chris Struick.

“As a town councillor and as the parent of a gay child I am very proud to stand here today to bring greetings on behalf of the town and tell you that the town is committed to being a welcoming, inclusive and caring community for all of our citizens,” said Underhill.

“We are proud to celebrate Pride month with you here tonight and to fly the Pride flag on our town building.”

“We believe all people should feel respected, valued and included in our community,” said Nelson.

“Those beliefs are embedded in our town’s mission, vision and values — we talk about treating others with respect and having a strong commitment to serving our community, which refers to everyone in our community equally.”

Local recording artist Shalaine Stebner performed a song she wrote about self-acceptance and loving yourself.

The lyrics, in part, were: “If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long until you say yourself? … I’ve been punishing myself for what happened in the past, things that I had no control of. Now is the time, the time for a change, time for some self care and self love.”

Popcorn and story time was sponsored by the Ponoka Jubilee Library.

Attendees were invited to draw with sidewalk chalk and there were Pride button giveaways.

In a press release, the Town of Ponoka stated it’s committed to being a “welcoming, inclusive and caring community.”

The town is recognizing Pride Month by flying the Pride flag at the Environmental Services Building and projecting the Pride flag colours onto the Ponoka Civic Building until July 20.

The light display can be viewed after sunset.

“Ponoka is a diverse community, and we believe that all people should feel respected, valued and included in our community,” said Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett in the release.

“Flying the Pride flag and projecting the Pride colours onto the Ponoka Civic Centre is an act of celebrating diversity and inclusion in our community and showing our support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.”

READ MORE: Pride in Maskwacis

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