A slow walk through the Evergreen Cultural Centre (ECC) unveiled a sense of unity, passion and love.
Today (July 15) was another historic step for Coquitlam and its LGBTQ2S+ residents as the first-ever community-organized Pride event took place at the arts facility.
At one end of the row, patrons found colouring tables for kids and a selfie station for anyone with a mobile device or camera.
In the middle, eye-popping fashions caught visitors' attention, as well as information booths from local organizations.
And, on the other side, a button-making table, which are still popular according to ECC spokesperson Jessica Fowlis.
She took the lead in organizing, what was known as, "Coquitlam Pride at Evergreen," stepping up after a group of determined high-school students pushed the city to help kickstart a local family-friendly event.
Fowlis credits the Dr. Charles Best Secondary Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), and teacher Megan Leslie, for their relentless advocacy.
Before Saturday, those that wished to recognize Pride had to visit Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, but Fowlis believed it was the ECC's obligation to ensure Tri-Cities residents can bask in the multicoloured celebration.
"Unfortunately, we can't do something to that capacity, not with the time we had and the space we have here at Evergreen," she said in an interview with the Tri-City News.
"But even the idea that I can walk [around] and see people dressed exactly how they want to be dressed, that there are people with their different Pride flags on wandering around proudly, that means so much that this is a safe place in our community, and people feel free to be able to act that way here. That's what we want."
But despite its smaller-scale set-up, the long-awaited Coquitlam Pride event was well-received.
Fowlis explained roughly 300 people were lined up outside the ECC doors when the festivities formally began at 12 p.m.
"Not only is it important for this event to be safe for the community to come and be who they are, we wanted it to feel safe for the staff who were going to be here representing themselves and representing Evergreen as part of the community," she added.
"So when I talk about that 'safe space,' it really means feeling like a welcome place for arts and culture to thrive in our community. And also making sure you know, the people that are all here are supporters of this community, supporters of artists and creators of this community."
During the five-hour public gathering, a storytime session reeled in young learners, while ECC artists-in-residence continued their work under the watchful eye of visitors.
As well, Fowlis hinted plans may already be in the works to bring a second Coquitlam Pride event back for 2024.
"We do know that the EDI [Equity, Diversity and Inclusion] committee at the city and Tri-City Pride Society will be starting their talks about creating a larger event in [Town Centre] park. All we can hope is, you know, we've had so much fun leading this; we're so happy to really put our name out there for the community and let people know that we want to be involved. And hopefully whatever that bigger event looks like next year, either our doors will be open, or we'll be over there supporting it."
Several community leaders also showed their support for the Queer community at the Pride event, including Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, Port Moody—Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo and Coquitlam—Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly.