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Saturday, July 13, 2024
Pride Potluck in Simcoe Park attracts steady flow of new friends
Roxana Marilao shows off her dance moves during the Pride Potluck at NOTL's Simcoe Park on June 23. RICHARD WRIGHT
Pride Potluck organizer Soleil Chauncey, left, and her friend Nova Versteegan showing off their pride colours and spirit June 23 in Simcoe Park. RICHARD WRIGHT

Not heavy rain nor extreme heat could prevent Soleil Chauncey and friends, new and old, from having the time of their lives on Sunday at Simcoe Park.

The 12-year-old organizer of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Pride Picnic on June 23 danced and laughed with her best friend, Nova Versteegen, and greeted those who came to the park’s brightly decorated amphitheatre with a huge smile on her face.

Over the course of three hours, about 20 visitors lent their presence and support for the event, which was quickly organized over just a couple of days the week prior.

“It’s just really nice and fun to have all the rainbows here,” said a winded Chauncey after running back and forth down the slope of the amphitheater draped in a huge Pride flag.

“People have been coming up and asking, ‘Is this a Pride event? It’s so pretty and rainbow-ey.’ They have all been really nice.”

Roxana Marilao of Rochester, N.Y., was one of the first to drop in after spotting it off in the distance while walking through the park.

The high school teacher, who is originally from Chile, easily matched Chauncey’s energy and excitement, taking time despite the heat of the day to let loose and show off her salsa dance moves.

Following her short performance, she gave a clear message of support.

“I love it,” she said.

“I know students are hurting and when they feel they are alone, they feel unaccepted. We need to see others for who they are and then we can make the world better,” she added.

Soliel’s mother, Silk Chauncey, was extremely happy with the turnout.

One of the highlights, she said, was the arrival of a group of new Nigerian-Canadians, who traveled to NOTL from Niagara Falls specifically to attend.

Same-sex partnerships are illegal in Nigeria, and Silk Chauncey said she could sense the group’s reluctance at first to make their presence known.

“They weren’t very forthcoming at first and looked nervous,” she said. “So I invited them over and offered them some food. It was so nice.”

The mom and daughter have plans to make their Pride Potluck an annual event in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In the meantime, Soleil is taking part in Toronto’s Pride Parade Sunday, June 30, representing Pflag Niagara, a peer support and advocacy group that has branches across the nation.


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