This month, Yukon Pride: 24 Hours of Gaylight is happening for the sixth year in a row—and it just gets bigger every year. With more people involved and more events happening, 2018’s edition of 24 Hours of Gaylight is a hotly anticipated weekend for the LGBTQ2S+ community and allies.

During Pride Month, the downtown areas of several cities are made over into parade routes and are swarmed with thousands of supporters, but there is something special about seeing this take place in a smaller, more-rural place like Whitehorse. A celebration of similarities and differences somewhere with millions of people is great, but it is obvious that diversity exists in those places. One might not think of how much of that there can be somewhere like the Yukon, and Pride Yukon is the opportunity to show and celebrate what a range of people and experiences this territory has.

Stephanie Hammond is the president of Queer Yukon Society, a board of six people. As she discusses the format of this year’s Pride events, it is clear that this is a welcoming environment where all are welcome to come out and participate. Hammond has seen the community grow over the past five years that Yukon Pride has been taking place.

“Regardless of whether people identify as being part of the queer community, it’s a really great way to show support for the community, especially for those who may be struggling to find that kind of love and acceptance,” says Hammond.

Yukon Pride’s 24 Hours of Gaylight continuously brings out a great number of people, but, more importantly, it brings all of these people together.

“The turnout usually exceeds expectations,” says Hammond. “We get roughly four-hundred people coming through for the picnic each year.”

Since parades and other big Pride events have been taking place in Whitehorse, Hammond says the community has become closer, even if at first it was unexpected that Pride events would be so successful and even become a huge part of a Yukon summer.

“I think it was genuinely surprising for folks the first year we had large-scale Pride events,” says Hammond. “It was even an awakening for people within the queer community.”

According to Hammond, public displays of support for the LGBTQ2S+ community have seen an increase in the past several years as well.

“Mayor Dan Curtis jumped on-board right away and hoisted the Pride flag at City Hall,” says Hammond.

The territorial government and the RCMP are among others who have raised Pride flags, and last summer saw the painting of two crosswalks into the well-known rainbow Pride flag and the Transgender Pride flag, in downtown Whitehorse, to show inclusion and support of these members of the community.

Pride Yukon 2018 takes place over three days, from Friday, June 22 until Sunday, June 24. The weekend kicks off with a new experience, Rights Night, at the Old Fire Hall. This is an all-ages event, and everyone is welcome to come and participate in a discussion led by a former Yukoner, Helen Falding, and see a screening of the 1992 CBC documentary, Queer in the North. There will also be poster-making for the following day’s parade at this event, and it will wrap up with a youth dance.

Saturday, June 23 will be a big day for Yukon Pride, as it is the day of the parade. The parade starts at 1 p.m., though people are encouraged to be there for the meetup at noon. The parade will travel along Main Street and 6th Avenue, to the White Pass Building, then along Front Street to Shipyards park—a new leg for the 2018 parade. At 2 p.m., there will be a barbecue/picnic at Shipyards Park (hosted by TD bank), as well as activities for kids.

Later that evening, the Pride dance will take place at the Jarvis Street Saloon, with a performance by Soul Migration. Tickets can be purchased online.On Sunday, June 24, the last day of Yukon Pride, the Pride Paddle will take place on the Yukon River at noon. Participants will paddle from Rotary Park to the Takhini River bridge. Participants can register and pay in advance at Up North Adventures. Up North is offering a 15-percent discount on rentals. Shuttles may be purchased as well.Make sure you come and check out some of the events that this packed, fun-filled weekend has to offer! More information is available at www.queeryukon.com.