Fernie Pride History
In August 2016, a local couple hosted a community Queer-BQ (queer BBQ), inviting everyone they knew who was queer locally through Facebook. It was delightful, and participants mused that there should be more queer organizing in the Elk Valley.
That September, Sara Funk, a mother of a Trans teen, reached out to queer historian and non-profit consultant Kevin Allen and asked for help setting up a local Pride organization. The Fernie Pride Society was formally incorporated with six board members on December 13, 2016. The mission: to support and connect the 2SLGBTQ+ community in the Elk Valley.
Some focus groups followed at a coffee shop called the Valley Social, where a monthly program called Beers & Queers (now known as Rainbow Connections) emerged. Fernie Pride walked in the Griz Days parade for the first time that March and its membership grew.
The Society successfully found funding for programming and, with some generous corporate sponsorship, launched the first Elk Valley Pride Festival, October 11-14, 2017, which was a great success, including a sold-out drag show featuring Miss Ellen Q.
Fernie Pride’s board members were flagging by 2019, but they hired the Society’s first permanent staff person, administrator Courtney Baker, who brought new energy and fundraising acumen to the Society.
The pandemic in 2020 caused Fernie Pride’s programming to go online, but a small public health window that September allowed for outdoor events. The 4th Annual Pride Festival powered through Covid, inaugurating the Pride Bike Parade, producing outdoor events for 20 people and a sold-out drive-in movie limited to 50 vehicles.
In 2021, Fernie Pride commissioned the Elk Valley Diversity and Inclusion Needs Assessment Report, which profiled the local queer community’s size and situation in detail. Through generous funding from the Government of Canada, this report was parlayed into the first Queer Out Here conference in February 2023, which successfully connected and educated over 100 2SLGBTQ+ and ally attendees from 19 communities.
The Pride Society has accomplished much in its short history and continues to be an inspiring hub for 2SLGBTQ+ people and their allies in the Elk Valley.
History provided by Past-President Kevin Allen
Featured Photo: Founding President Sara Funk and Past-President Kevin Allen raise the pride flag at Fernie City Hall for the 2023 Elk Valley Pride Festival.