Just past noon on Saturday, Stephanie Hammond and Kelly-Anne Malcomson gather in front of the United Church, pulling rainbow-colored leg warmers up over their feet and draping coloured beads over their necks.
Over the next hour, more people trickle into the parking lot, pride flags hanging from their vehicles and rainbow moose stickers stuck on their skin. Soon after pop music starts to blare from speakers mounted on the flat-bed of a pickup truck, the crowd growing larger still.
Hammond and Malcomson move through it, exchanging hugs and laughter. The two were part of this year’s organizing committee and also helped spearhead last year’s initial parade.
“People really want to be part of something positive,” says Hammond, who also goes by the moniker Soupmix on the local roller derby circuit.
“It’s easy to be part of it and it’s really wonderful to see all the support.”
A few metres down from Hammond, Serge Harvey is introducing himself to people.
Originally from Quebec City, Harvey is considering a move to Whitehorse for the quality of life and the pace of a smaller city. His visit just happened to align with the parade.
“It’s great to see this event,” he says. “It’s the time of the world – we’re not living in Russia.”
Next to him, a trio of dogs in tie-dyed shirts lie in the grass. Children on bikes with streamers hanging from the handlebars pedal around the crowd.
The Whitehorse parade, though still in its infancy, is growing quickly on a strong foundation.
Outside of city hall a pride flag has billowed for most of the past week, just as it did during the Sochi Olympics.
Back at the church parking lot, waiting to get started, Mayor Dan Curtis stands in the crowd, with MLA Elaine Taylor next to him.
“We’re really proud of everyone in the community,” says Curtis. “Not just today but 365 days a year, we’re very proud.”
Malcomson has felt the support. She’s lived in the Yukon for 19 years and was surprised by last year’s reaction.
“It was unbelievable,” she says. “It was like the community was more prepared for us than we knew.”
Hammond, a former resident of Prince George, B.C., has seen the other side of it.
A few years ago she marched in that city’s pride parade. “It was a different feeling down there,” she said. “It didn’t really feel welcoming at all.”
At that parade, one of marchers walking alongside her attempted to offer some reassurance. “It’s still better than the year they threw tomatoes at us,” she was told.
Across the street from the parking lot, as the parade prepares to start, spectators in the neighbouring apartments lean over their balconies, while others gather outside in lawn chairs.
As the parade rolls down Main Street, people rush outside from businesses, snapping photos and cheering the group on.
In the middle of the crowd, marchers hold up three-metre long pieces of fabric, each piece a swath of colour. It ripples above their heads with each step, forming a living pride flag.
The parade turns onto Front Street and eventually hops onto the Yukon River Trail before finishing at Rotary Park.
There, the crowd gathers again for a barbecue hosted by the PSAC Pride committee. Parade participants lie the strips of fabric down on the ground, forming another flag.
Harvey sits next to them, his decisions about moving to Whitehorse now sounding firm as he speaks with Hammond.
“Maybe next year I can be involved,” he says. “It’s been a great day.”
Contact Sam Riches at firstname.lastname@example.org