WOLFVILLE – Everyone at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market Pride night July 18 was treated to a debut performance unlike any other – Mike Butler in drag as Sharon Dalove.
The occasion was Butler’s first performance as a drag queen. Dancing to Cher’s “Pride,” Butler captivated the audience and got them clapping before ending the show by shooting off a confetti cannon. The audience, consisting of adults and kids, was left gobsmacked – in a good way.
Two little girls approached Butler after the performance and told him he looked like a unicorn, something that nearly moved Butler to tears.
“Those kids loved it. How cool was that? These kids are growing up in a world where this is normal – where this is okay,” he said.
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The market event was full of vendors selling the usual tasty treats and craft items, but was also full of rainbow flags and Pride-themed information pieces from organizations like the Valley Youth Project, headed by volunteers Tim Hughes and Mylène DiPenta.
“The visibility for our project and Pride is really great tonight. That’s probably the biggest thing that comes out of this,” said Hughes.
Tessa Janes, another prominent member of the area’s LGBTQ+ community, was also at the event. As she learned to braid friendship bracelets with rainbow colours, she discussed what Pride means to her, and why having so many people show up to community events supporting queer folk means the world.
“Pride started as a riot and has grown to be a celebration. It’s still a protest, because there’s still progress to be made, but seeing so many people out for this is great,” she said, .
“Even just hoisting the flag says to our community, ‘we see you, we hear you, we have your back.”
Butler, who’s still celebrating his Pride wedding to his now-husband Ian Brunton, agreed that seeing rainbows on flags and people was a welcome sight. He explained why while the flag is only flown certain days of the year, smaller flags call queer-friendly shops home.
Specifying that it’s not to flaunt being gay, Butler said they are instead a way of letting everyone, queer or not, know the spot is a safe space.
“It’s not to rub it in someone’s face. It’s just saying, ‘you’re ok here. The place across the street still might be safe, but we’re going to tell you that you can come in here and have a chat,’” he said.
As she braided her bracelet, Janes said the lack of these small rainbow flags is among the reasons so many people leave small towns in favour of larger cities like Vancouver and Toronto. She said Pride events are instrumental in making them want to stay, and telling them there is a place for them.
“These people don’t want to leave. Most of them love their towns and want to stay. These events let them know there are people that want them here,” she said.
“Acknowledging Pride is important. It’s worth being open and vocal about.”