Story by Ryan Massel
Vacay.ca LGBTQ Travel Columnist
KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — We all have a lot of “firsts” in our lives, and for those of us who live in the LGBTQ realm, our firsts continue to multiply as the world continues to welcome and embrace us.
Another first occurred earlier this month, not only for the LGBTQ community, but for the residents and visitors of the family-focused ski resort Big White, located 45 minutes from downtown Kelowna. The resort held its first Pride event.
Welcome to Peak Pride
A three-day festival was jam-packed with all the expected fixings of a world pride intermixed with winter sports in a truly Canadian landscape. For their first year, the creative team behind Peak Pride decided to go big, bringing in notable and admired local, Canadian and American talent.
Two of Kelowna’s premier drag queens — Sasha and Sparkle — welcomed the guests. With personalities as dazzling as their lipsticks, these queens were the perfect hosts and continued to guide the celebration throughout the weekend. They introduced Peak Pride’s first major performer of the weekend: Simone Denny, the lead singer of the iconic ’90’s group Love Inc.
Denny’s talent and love shone through, and she was quick to wave the crowd closer to the stage, where she handpicked a crew of adoring “back-up dancers” to join her. After belting out four of her most famous songs, Denny decided it was best that she played an extended version of “Superstar” as her finale. This encore whipped the crowd into a singalong frenzy.
After her departure, sweaty brows were dabbed and a freestyle party kicked up at a nearby local pub where Drag Kings performed and locals and party-goers danced the night away together.
Peak Pride’s attendees — although small in number — included a mixed crowd, which seemed to have solid representation from the LGBTQ community. As friendships formed, you could feel the energy of a crowd sharing in the excitement of something new.
Parade Day at Big White
A balloon-laden runway was set smack dab in the heart of Big White’s Village Centre, where skiers and snowboarders arrived en masse from the snowy slopes.
Marshalled by local Kelowna resident and Olympic athlete Kelsey Serwa, the rainbow-coloured parade was cheered on as parade walkers, skiers, snowboarders and a few folks on crazy carpets proudly waved their flags.
Down in Happy Valley, the parade ended with a party in which DJ D3viant spun, local beers were poured, and a team of talented face painters shared the rainbow and bits of colourful magic with celebrators. Many rainbow-clad smiling faces chose to continue the celebrations with a day on the slopes.
Drag Queens Rule the Main Event
“Wipeout,” the marquee event at Peak Pride, was all about the top queens.
First up, Calgary’s Visa DeKline took the stage for a hilarious “Annie”-inspired mash up. Then, the stunningly sexy Jane Smoker from Vancouver busted out the beats with a fast-paced rap ensemble.
Both were perfect opening complements to the night’s star performer — arguably the most notable and famed queen to ever appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race — Alyssa Edwards. (Insert loud tongue pop here!)
Her opening number paid homage to her Drag Race sisters. She then lip-synced for her life as she sleighed iconic ’90’s jams and interjected between numbers with her hilarious stories and colourful banter we have come to love.
She not only took the time to engage with the audience, she took her time doing it. This was a Texan Queen whose personality and heart are as big as the state she calls home. And that biggest display of heart came when she invited Kelowna’s local queen Sparkle onto the stage with her to double down on two numbers together.
The conclusion of the evening saw the sea of people parting ways and opening the dance floor where the battle royale of the queens took place, both sharing the spotlight and reining victorious.
Wipeout was officially anything but! As the doors to the main event closed, another local pub once again opened theirs and the party continued into the night.
Time for Tea
As VIP ticket-holders enjoyed a private brunch, the remainder of the guests were invited for mimosas and martinis during Peak Pride’s final Sunday event, the Tea Dance.
It was one last time to connect with newly made friends and celebrate the weekend’s purpose of coming together, sharing unbiased love and pride.
For its first year, Peak Pride brought in the best of the best. Not only were the events and performers top notch, attendees were as well.
LGBTQ Travel Takes Off
To continue on the theme of “firsts” for the LGBTQ community, it’s with great pride that I share this story as my inaugural contribution to Vacay.ca as the publication’s new LGBTQ Travel Columnist.
I have teamed with Vacay.ca to regularly share articles with an LGBTQ flair. I’ll be travelling around the globe visiting a variety of destinations focusing on the events, resorts, restaurants, hotels, shops and activities that are LGBTQ friendly and complement the array of lifestyles in our community. And, of course, I’ll be sharing my favourite highlights with you along the way.
Annual tourism spending related to LGBTQ travellers has hit more than $200 billion annually in the world and close to $10 million each year in Canada. I’ll be providing exciting content and helpful travel tips to help you plan your travels. And if we happen to be in the same place at the same time, make sure to say hello so we can celebrate the good times together!