PORT REXTON, N.L. — When asked about the upcoming Pride Festival for the Bonavista Peninsula community of Port Rexton, organizers say they’re glad to bring some “bay” pride to rural Newfoundland.
Planned by Port Rexton Brewery owners Sonja Mills and Alicia MacDonald, as well as Nicole Evans who works at the brewery, the events will go ahead from Aug. 9-11.
When asked how the idea for a local pride event came about, MacDonald told The Packet that — like all good things — it was decided on over a beer.
“In Port Rexton, Sonja and I — as gay business owners — have always been welcomed and accepted,” said MacDonald.
“We don’t feel any bit different here than if we were a straight couple and that is an amazing feeling,” added Mills.
Since the community is so progressive and open-minded, they thought it should be celebrated.
“(With) St. John’s Pride, it’s so exciting and there’s so many great things happening and … we can do this here,” said MacDonald.
As far as they know, they haven’t heard of any other rural places in the area that have had pride festivities.
“We can celebrate our lives and each other’s lives and orientation and gender identity. We can celebrate it all,” said MacDonald.
Having brought their plans to the municipal town council, they say everybody was on board and thought it was a great idea.
Mills says she hopes for the atmosphere to be a little laid back like a “pride vacation” around the bay.
The celebrations will include LGBTQ+ Trivia Night on Thursday, a film night on Friday and possibly even a Pride softball game for Saturday as well as live music and entertainment.
Evans will be pitching in with her social media, marketing and event planning experience.
She says an event like this can also be an opportunity to educate and inform people in addition to celebrate.
“It’s still not something people necessarily talk about a lot. So being able to incorporate a lot of fun things like beer and a softball game and movie nights and stuff like that but use that as an avenue to help inform and educate people,” says Evans.
The organizers say the events will lead right into Champney’s West Days, with all their activities like the cardboard boat races and the Island Girl pageant.
They plan for it to be an annual festival and they hope to build on the event each year.
“We’re going to have this every year and try to make it bigger, better and more fabulous,” said Evans.
Mills says Pride is about fun but also awareness, encouraging anyone to come along. And, as an important note, Pride is for everybody — it’s as inclusive as possible.
“It’s a festival for everyone … as long as you have a heart, and you love!” laughed Mills.
Developing a Pride beer
On hand at the brewery on Wednesday, July 25, was a group of home brewers out of St. John’s called Queer Beer. They collaborated with Port Rexton Brewery to develop a beer for Pride, a witbier called “Come Out Wit’ Ya.”
For the four, Natalie Dignam, Stacey Pike, Terra Barrett and Alex Stead, it was a great experience since they’ve been doing home brew for the last several months.
Barrett says it was fascinating to see the scale of the methods and how that was different than what they do in their kitchens.
“How many home brewers get this privilege to come to a brewery and learn from people who are doing very well and are very successful in Newfoundland and very supportive of other businesses?” added Pike. “To come into that culture is a lot of privilege.”
The two groups initially met with the Brewnettes, the women’s beer drinking collective.
Having an opportunity to contribute to Port Rexton Pride, they say since some of their members are queer, they are happy to contribute to a positive, uplifting LGBTQ+ event in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I just came out very recently; publicly literally two weeks ago,” says Stead. “For me, the fact that I came out and literally immediately (Sonja and Alicia) reached out to me, it was really heartwarming.
“As a newly out gay person, it’s just like this is accepting and cool and okay.”
For more information on Port Rexton Pride, as well as a schedule, check out their Facebook and Instagram (@portrextonpride).
You can also follow Queer Beer on Instagram (@QueerBeerNL).