Erin Pride event set for June 22 at McMillan Park

ERIN – “No one should have to leave their homes to feel safe being themselves.”

That’s why Laura Bannayan has been working along side Tracey Wallace and four other Erin Pride committee members to organize a day-long Pride event in Erin this June. 

The family-focused event, set for June 22 at McMillan Park from 11am to 8pm, will give Erin residents the chance to celebrate Pride at home in their own community. 

It’s the first Erin Pride event sanctioned by the town.

Prior to Erin Pride taking root, locals who wanted to celebrate Pride had to leave town to do so, Bannayan said. 

“And that’s not community. If you need to leave your community to find your community – then your local community has failed you. 

“That’s why I think bringing Pride into small rural areas like Erin is so important,” she told the Advertiser. 

“It’s important that both our current and new residents know that everyone is welcome here, that their families are safe here,” Wallace agreed.

Bannayan said she knows Erin has a strong queer community and a strong community of allies, but the community feels disconnected. Organizers hope the upcoming event will strengthen connections.

It takes someone, or a small group of people, to “be the first one to stand up and say ‘I’m here, I’m queer, and I want to find more people like me,’” Bannayan said. 

And on June 22, “We can actually all stand up in that park and look around and see we are not alone, we have support and we have a very vibrant and strong community to access.” 

The Pride event

Erin Pride performers include TroyBoy Parks, a drag king who will read stories that focus on diversity within families. 

There will be Disney-themed drag performances from drag kings King Freddie and Justin Cider, and a drag show from Doll Haus Events with tributes to Taylor Swift and the Spice Girls. 

Two bands will perform: The Busholme’s house band the Matinee Idols, and Waterloo Region folk punk band Fat Scheid and the  Merry Melodies. 

Brighten Up Toys, one of the event’s major sponsors, is hosting a family activity area “full of games, crafts, and fun ways to get the little ones involved,” Bannayan said. 

Kids (aged 8 to 15) are  invited to register to compete in a cake decorating competition hosted by Jess for you Café and Baked Goods at 11:30am. 

The bakery will bring the cakes and supply everything needed to decorate them, and participants will “decorate to their hearts’ content,” Bannayan said, with prizes going to the top three final products. 

Vendors representing local businesses with a queer focus will set up in the park. 

Erin Pride 2024 takes place at the same time as Farm to Paw’s vendor fair, which is a short walk down Main Street from McMillan Park. 

The two events have collaborated with businesses on Main Street to offer free swag tables with Pride stickers and key chains, dog treats, and swag bags from businesses. 

Erin Mayor Michael Dehn will kick off the Pride event with an opening address and land acknowledgement.

‘Drastic change’

The event was designated a municipally significant event on Oct. 12, which organizers say speaks to how much the town has changed its tune when it comes to supporting Erin Pride. 

In 2020 and 2021, Wallace organized Pride Processions where cars donned with rainbow flags drove slowly through town to celebrate Pride safely during pandemic restrictions. 

Then Wallace attempted to organize in-person events in 2022 and 2023, but “she was blocked at every turn” Bannayan said. 

Wallace is a professional event planner and owner and manager of AAA Events. 

As she attempted to plan a Pride event, the town “hit her with all kinds of red tape she’s never had to go through with other events,” Bannayan said. 

“It became very clear that they were not supporting Pride deliberately – they were throwing up roadblocks  everywhere they could.” 

Wallace was also struggling to raise money to pay for a Pride event, and she was close to giving up entirely when Bannayan caught wind, contacted Wallace and offered to donate $4,000. 

While Bannayan currently lives in Toronto, she owns property in Erin and has plans to relocate to the town. 

After making the donation, Bannayan attended a town council meeting in October with Wallace to request Erin Pride events be designated municipally significant. 

“We had a speech ready and were prepared for a fight,” Bannayan said, as they anticipated the same push back previously faced by Wallace.

But to their surprise, the new mayor and councillors nodded their heads and said, “‘Yes, sure, we love it,’” Bannayan said. “To me it seems like a very drastic change,” and “we are really excited to have the town council on board.” 

Bannayan is also feeling encouraged by “a significant positive response” from the local community. 

“It’s definitely taking a turn in the right direction.”

For more information about Erin Pride, to register for the cake decorating competition, or to apply to volunteer visit