With Ontario set to move into step three of its Roadmap to Reopening, Shawn Forth with Muskoka Pride says they’re excited to help the community “come out… of lockdown.”

“It’s been a challenging year as an event organizer to plan any kind of gathering,” the organizer of the annual pride event tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom. The planning for the event was done while Ontario was in steps one and two of the reopening plan, so Forth says they made sure the plan they put forward was flexible in case the final step of the province’s plan was put into place earlier than originally scheduled. Muskoka Pride runs from July 15th to the 25th. On the 16th, the province will move into step three, which ups gathering limits to 25 people inside and 100 outside. Forth says no events are being added or removed because of this, but a review will be done of all events to figure out what the internal gathering limit for each should be set at.

With that being said, Forth says they will still enforce mask-wearing and take down people’s information for contact tracing. He added that virtual events will stay online-only.

A rundown of all the events being held for this year’s Muskoka Pride is available on the event’s website. Some events are free, but others are ticketed, Forth points out. One of the highlights will be the multiple drag shows hosted throughout Muskoka. “It’s someone who maybe presents as male, and they dress as female and it’s a very over-the-top performance that involves lip-syncing,” Forth explains. One of the shows will be held at Bracebridge’s Memorial Park. “It will be a lot of fun,” Forth says. “They’re always a great time.” He adds that all municipalities in Muskoka will host virtual and in-person pride flag raisings. 

No matter what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, Forth says it isn’t going to dampen his excitement. “It’s important for us to be visible,” he says. “For people to see the rainbow flag. For individuals in Muskoka to gather and see there are people who identify with their sexual orientation or gender identity to develop that sense of community.” 

Forth says that there are so many towns that make up the District of Muskoka, it can increase the feeling of isolation for the younger generation. An event like this, he hopes, helps brings together all corners of our region. “It’s really important to see others who may identify the same way you do,” Forth says, adding for younger members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, they will be able to see there is a place for them in the community. 

“We want people to be safe and have a fun pride week,” Forth says.