The Whistler Pride Festival has traditionally been filled with events for adults, but this year, organizers have added a special treat for the community’s under-19 contingent.
Walking Dead actor Daniel Newman — who recently came out to fans — will do a special meet and greet during a pride movie night meant for the Whistler youth who take part in Alphabet Soup, a monthly drop-in program for LGBTQ+ at the Whistler Public Library.
“The kids will be able to meet this amazing actor and hear him talk about his experience,” said Dean Nelson, head of the festival. “We started the pride movie night a couple of years ago as a way for us to engage with the Whistler youth to make them feel like they could be part of the festival as well. We wanted to create something special for them. It’s a free event hosted at the Whistler library.”
Other actors and social media influencers will also be attending this year, including Kit Williams and John Halbach from the TV show Eastsiders.
Organizers are also ramping up to host a range of other events running at various venues around Whistler from Jan. 21 until Jan. 28. As part of the 26th year festivities, two new local venues will be hosting events, including “Sip N’ Dip” at the Scandinave Spa and “Mix ‘N Mingle” at the Audain Art Museum, sponsored by TD Bank. “We’re really excited about that,” Nelson said. “The exhibit that TD wants to showcase is Stone and Sky (at the museum), which they helped support, so it fits in nicely with our mountain culture.”
Another supporter of this year’s festival is the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) through it’s Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding, which will go towards bringing headlining comedian Margaret Cho back to the festival.
“We’re really proud of the support we get from the municipality for helping to bring a headline act like Margaret Cho. And (the support shown by) putting a permanent installation in the resort is huge for us,” Nelson said, referring to the rainbow crosswalks that were installed in the Village last year.
This will be the first festival since they were added to Main Street. “I think people will definitely notice,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot of selfies on the sidewalk showing that — especially the crosswalk at the Summit Lodge because it has a spectacular view of the mountains in the background.”
In the meantime, Nelson and the other festival organizers are preparing to welcome people from around the globe. Each year, the festival — which features music and food events, as well as several parties and, of course, skiing and snowboarding — welcomes people from the LGBTQ community from around the globe to Whistler.
“We have a core group of people who like to come every year,” Nelson said. “The number that still pops up as strange to me is our Thailand numbers. We have 12 guests from Thailand coming — I’m guessing they’re expats — so that’s fun to see.”
For more information on the festival or to buy passes or tickets visit gaywhistler.com.