The Pride Awards, organized by volunteers of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society, is an annual celebration recognizing the achievements and contributions to the LGBTQ2+ community, by individuals and businesses in Edmonton. There is a resounding message though; this event is still just as much about human rights activism and raising awareness as it is a celebration of achievements.
“Not only is it a way to honour those who make ongoing contributions to the LGBTQ2+ community, it’s also about maintaining visibility,” says Amanda Barrett, a Edmonton Pride Festival Society board member of five years and Pride Awards committee organizer. “Some people believe we are in a post-gay time, but that’s not the case, this is how we acknowledge the, often challenging, work people and businesses do to make our community a safer and more inclusive place.”
Started by HIV Edmonton 30 years ago, the awards have grown from a couple of categories to eight, including two eponyms after Larry Sand and Sheryl McInnis, who are both recipients of Pride Awards from previous years. The categories have changed over the years, including one of the original namesakes after Michael Phair—who was the first openly gay councillor in Edmonton and one of the first in Canada—but the essence of the awards remains the same.
“The categories are all integral parts of what helps carry our community along to a better tomorrow. This involves academia, business, law, and volunteerism in equal measure. The Outstanding Volunteer award is a personal favourite of mine as so often volunteers work quietly behind the scenes making big changes happen. This is a way of really drawing attention to that important work,” says Clayton Hitchcock, Pride Awards Producer and Pride Festival Parade Co-Director, both of which are volunteer positions.
Nominations are accepted on an annual basis and the recipients are notified in advance to give them the opportunity to invite friends and family.
“Giving recognition is important to the LGBTQ2+ community because there is so much work left to be done in regards to the rights, freedoms, and necessity for change here and around the world,” adds Hitchcock. “The Awards are our opportunity to tell leaders in/for the LGBTQ2+ community that we see the work they are doing to make the world better and that we appreciate it.”
The all-ages event, sponsored by ATB and HIV Edmonton, is hosted in partnership with the Rainbow Art Gallery and Harcourt House and includes a public art show featuring local queer artists, entertainment, and of course, the awards ceremony.
“Community collaboration is a big part of what we do. We’re excited to have the ongoing support of ATB and HIV Edmonton, and to be creating new partnerships like the ones we have with Harcourt House,” Barrett says.