‘I’m able to be free’: Ladysmith hosts first-ever Pride celebration with ‘amazing’ turnout

'I'm able to be free': Ladysmith hosts first-ever Pride celebration with 'amazing' turnout

Mikayla Lees spun and danced on Ladysmith’s First Avenue Sunday, telling CHEK News she felt different than she ever has in her hometown.

“I’m able to be free and I don’t care anymore. Like I’ve never been able to be this person, so this is really exciting, and the support of my community means everything,” said Lees.

On Sunday, Ladysmith hosted its first-ever Pride Celebration.

A Ladysmith Fire Department crane truck hoisted a flag high over the event, which closed parts of First Avenue. Despite the rain, the block party was packed with hundreds of allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community eager to be part of the milestone.

“Amazing. Amazing. The turnout already is just crazy,” said Sarah Martichenko, vice president of Ladysmith Pride Society.

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Martichenko and Kezia Cloke, who sit on the board of Ladysmith’s Pride Society, organized the celebration. The society was formed just a year ago, and according to Cloke, the welcoming event was overdue.

“I think it was time for Ladysmith to have pride, there’s been pride in Duncan, Nanaimo, Victoria but Ladysmith is such a great town…We should have had it all along, but I mean starting now, that’s totally fine and someone had to start it so,” said Kezia Cloke, president of the Ladysmith Pride Society.

It was an eye-opener for Nanaimo’s Trish Bingham, who came out of the closet seven years ago in her 50s and has now undergone a transition.

“And my life has never been happier than I am now. I’m living my best life. I’m 63 years old, right? It took me 55 years,” Bingham told CHEK News.

Tammy Nutting also remained in the closet until her mid-40s and said she is proud to see increasing acceptance.

“When I see the young kids today out here, they don’t have to go through 40 years of what I had to put through. They’re here now, they’re enjoying it, they’re living their best life and I want to be here to support it and make sure they can keep doing that,” said Nutting, a Nanaimo resident and member of the Nanaimo Pride Society.

Yet a visible security presence was also attending the event after backlash from people who spoke out against it.

“We haven’t had any issues on site yet, but unfortunately, we do receive a lot of hateful comments, but we block, we delete, and we move on,” said Martichenko.

Instead, they’re focusing on how Ladysmith lit up with pride Sunday in a historic and soon-to-be annual event.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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