The Smithers Pride Society’s second crack at hosting a local virtual Pride celebration May 29 benefitted greatly from last year’s inaugural online event.
“We learned a lot from that for this year,” said Perry Rath, SPS vice president.
For example, last year’s Facebook-only feed experienced several interruptions, perhaps as a result of the platform’s copyright infringement algorithms, which mute videos that use copyrighted material.
“We tried to get all these things lined up in advance this time, like the music the drag queens were using or even the original music from the musicians, just to get the proper permissions for their own songs to be played and not get flagged,” Rath said.
The society also streamed it on YouTube, which offers a more seamless stream than Facebook giving viewers more choice.
The biggest difference, though, was hosting it locally. Because of technical requirements of guest performers from the Lower Mainland, the 2020 celebration was live-streamed from Vancouver.
This year, SPS partnered with CICK Smithers Community Radio, which allowed them to host it in Smithers.
“It was super-nice to have it locally live-streamed this time and CICK was super-generous with facilities and technical know-how,” Rath said.
The show kicked off with greetings from Chief Timber Wolf (Mable Forsythe), Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill, Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen and Shelley Worthington, student minister of the Smithers United Church, the first church north of Prince George to be designated an “affirming ministry.”
Hosts Sarah Payne, SPS treasurer, and Hayley Wilson of Stardust Traveller, hosted from the CICK rail car. They introduced acts who performed from a variety of locations in the valley, across B.C. and even London, U.K. from where former Smithereen Elena — who is starting to break through on the pop charts — joined in.
While everyone is anxious to get back to the live Main Street event, the online platform did offer some interesting opportunities.
For example, Scalawag (Teo Saefkow) produced a split-screen video of himself playing and singing all the parts on a variety of instruments.
The other positive Rath said, is it allows viewers to join in from wherever they are in the world and organizers were pleased with the turnout, which peaked at approximately 100 viewers and, of course, is still available for people to watch.
The pandemic has opened people up to a whole new realm of possibilities.
“It makes us think, OK, when we do a live event again on Main Street, how can we integrate both of those aspects,” Rath said.
Meanwhile, Smithers Secondary School also celebrated its Pride event a little later than usual and a little differently. In the past, it has been held the Friday prior to the Saturday Main Street celebration.
This year because of COVID, there was no reason to make them coincide. Also, because the older students are only attending every other day in alternating cohorts, it was extended to two days, June 3 and 4.
The high school event consists of a rainbow-themed kiosk being set up on the front lawn of the school over the lunch hour. There students can get information on Pride, sexuality and gender identity; add their own Pride-positive messages to a message board; and pick up various items such as rainbow mini-flags, stickers, temporary tattoos, cupcakes and cookies.
There were also live performers.
In the past, the event has also been open to community members, but that was not the case in 2021 due to ongoing COVID-related restrictions.
Both events coincided roughly with the repainting of the rainbow crosswalk, for which the society and LGBTQ+ community is grateful.
“It’s a very visible symbol of welcoming of diversity,” Rath said.