MUSKOKA, ON-Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Muskoka Pride is still planning festivities, but in a different format. 

Set to occur between July 18th through the 26th, the annual week of activities that celebrates Muskoka LGBTQ members will be able to enjoy this event virtually. 

President of Muskoka Pride Merv Taylor-Morin said that due to the pandemic, they are not able to hold their signature events like the parade and picnic. 

“Instead, we have been working on a series of virtual and in-person events that celebrate Pride while ensuring social distancing,” he said. “Pride cannot be cancelled – it is inside all of us – Pride can only be reimagined.” 

Muskoka Pride board member Shawn Forth notes that many larger Pride festivals across North America have been able to hold all of their events online. 

In Muskoka, where the internet can sometimes be uncooperative, they did not want to rely on virtual events solely. 

“Taking advantage of Muskoka’s wide-open spaces and natural beauty, we are also holding some in-person events that are safely socially-distanced,” Forth said.

The planned virtual events will consist of the annual Pride church service being held at Bala, and Port Carling United Church is being moved to July 19th and is accessible through Zoom and YouTube. 

Set on July 20th and the 21st, this year’s flag-raising will be live-streamed to the Muskoka Pride Facebook page. Members of the public may attend but are reminded to distance themselves physically and wear a mask. 

With the fewer in-person event this year like the annual mini-golf tournament at Northern Escapades on July 23rd, a take-out dinner, tailgate party and evening at the Muskoka Drive-in is being planned. As the yearly Sawdust City drag show had to be cancelled this year, Pride has come up with something else. In its place, local drag performers will be hosting Driveway Drag Shows, which have become popular in larger cities during the pandemic. If you do decide to attend these vents, make sure to physically distance yourselves and wear a mask. 

On July 24th, Littlewoodsmith will be presenting a virtual reading of “The Laramie Project” that will feature 15 actors from Muskoka and Toronto.

The following day, Muskoka Pride plans on Holding a special Film Festival, which will feature films form the May festival along with some new ones. 

While the annual picnic and parade have had to be cancelled as well, the planning committee has decided to instead bring the spirit of Pride to the main street of Muskoka’s towns by holding the Muskoka Rainbow Road Tour on July 18th and the 26th. 

Residents are also invited to decorate their vehicles and join for a road tour around Lake of Bays on the 18th and Lake Muskoka on the 26th. 

Everyone is welcome to attend and take part in the event, and for more information, head to Muskoka Pride here.