Kingston Pride: A Growing Celebration of Inclusion

By Visit Kingston

2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Kingston Pride festival and this year’s theme—Remember the Past, Create the Future—celebrated its legacy with record-breaking attendance.

KPI chair Ruth Wood in rainbow dress in yellow convertible
Photo by Mary Ann Wamboldt

From its humble and stressful beginnings as a ‘sidewalk stroll’ in 1989 (they couldn’t get a parade permit) to this year’s parade of over 450 people, Kingston Pride has come a long way in 30 years. Ruth Wood—who’s served as chair of the board for 2 years now—spoke to a community member who was at the first Kingston Pride. “They said it was a very small group of people quite nervous, kind of rushing down the sidewalk.”

People marching in the parade
Photo by Mary Ann Wamboldt

Wood says the festival continues to grow each year: “We have more involvement from the Kingston community, people who support us in a number of ways, and the growing level of acceptance makes us [the LGBTQ2S+ community] more of an entity to the wider community.” She continues, “it’s become more attractive to people visiting Kingston from other places.”

Though the festival has grown, it’s not as wild as pride celebrations in larger cities which gives it a uniquely grassroots vibe. “It’s a different experience,” says Wood. “It’s smaller so it’s not as crowded and the parade doesn’t take as long to go by.” Wood encourages people from other cities to attend Kingston Pride for its friendliness: “When you visit Kingston for Pride, you’re coming into an area where people will welcome you.”

In no way does this mean the celebration is dialled back, as even the Mayor was in attendance to re-sign the Kingston Pride Month Proclamation. “It’s wonderful to be in a large group of people walking down Princess Street.” Wood Continues, “it grows every year: more floats, more people watching the parade go by, cheering us on—just a lot of fun.”

From left to right; Treasurer Anne-Marie Kooiman, Chair Ruth Wood, and 2019 Festival Director Ted Robinson. Photo by Wihse Green, Green Touch Photography.

There’s also the community fair where various organizations and vendors set up booths on the Saturday in Confederation Basin. Treasurer Anne-Marie Kooiman says, “seeing the influx of happy people, proudly bringing their colours into the park and the general positivity this creates is an amazing experience.”

Two women holding signs at the community fair
Photo by Mary Ann Wamboldt

The festival is organized annually by Kingston Pride Inc. (KPI), a not-for-profit organization that is governed by a volunteer board of directors, currently with 6 members. The board is responsible for the orchestration of the parade and community fair, but other members of the community contribute events to the schedule as well. Kooiman says it’s no small task: “It takes a full year to plan and work up to the festivities.”

A pride flag is hoisted up on a fire truck ladder in at city hall
Photos by Mary Ann Wamboldt

Wood says, “the festival is wide-open to anyone who wants to be there.” Inclusivity is always a key factor for any pride event, so it’s important to the board as much as possible to have a wide variety of events in physically accessible spaces. They also make sure to feature events with and without alcohol in order to include people of all ages in the festival.

Portrait of a young woman in rainbow tie-dye and suspenders
Photo by Mary Ann Wamboldt

“Kingston Pride is a focal point for the [LGBTQ2S+] community,” says Wood. “We don’t speak for the whole community—it’s extremely diverse—but we try to be there and advocate for everybody in the community.” There is room on the board for up to 10 people, and members change often, so the board encourages people who are interested in helping with next year’s festival to register to volunteer at

The board’s vision for the future is to continue to improve the festival to better reflect the diversity of Kingston’s LGBTQ2S+ community. “We hope to engage with our local indigenous communities to strengthen our ties and recognize the contributions of two-spirited people,” says Kooiman.