Muskoka Pride Week’s unofficial kick-off every year is the raising of the Pride Progress flag, formerly the Rainbow flag, by the six municipalities in Muskoka along with Wahta First Nation.
The first flag raising will happen at 9:30 AM in Dwight with the day wrapped up at 2:15 PM with a flag raising in Gravenhurst.
“It’s always exciting seeing the Rainbow flag, or the Pride Progress flag, raised,” says Shawn Forth, Secretary for Muskoka Pride. “It really is the symbolic representation of the support shown by all the different municipalities for the LGBTQ+ community. Seeing that Rainbow flag allows for some individuals in the community who perhaps feel isolated to see themselves represented in their community.”
The flag raising began in 2011 with only one community taking part. Forth says by 2013 all municipalities were taking part. “It really does symbolize the inclusion and the importance of our LGBTQ+ community in Muskoka,” he says.
Previously, it was the Rainbow flag that was raised. However, last year marked the first year the Pride Progress flag was raised. It was created in 2018 by Daniel Quasar incorporating elements of other previously created flags. While the right side of the flag retains the former Rainbow flag design, the left side features a chevron with the colours black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes to represent marginalized people of colour, trans individuals, and those living with HIV/AIDS, and those who have been lost. Forth explains it’s shaped like an arrow and pointing to the right to represent forward movement, but is on the left edge to represent the progress that still needs to be made.
“It’s really recognizing that there are still many identifies within the rainbow community that are often still underrepresented or marginalized and trying to shed a light and help build further support from the rest of the queer community and end this marginalization,” Forth says about the Pride Progress flag.
When the flag is raised at 10:30 at Kent Park in Huntsville, Forth says town council will be on hand to unveil the town’s new rainbow bench. Once it’s unveiled, it will mean the six municipalities in Muskoka plus Wahta First Nation have a rainbow bench installed “We actually now have a few communities who are looking at incorporating more benches,” Forth says.