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'No way you can tell us not to celebrate': Pandemic or not, Georgina’s Pride Ride rolls on

Georgina Pride Ride, June 26, becomes annual event on the heels of York Pride digital parade June 25
June 24, 2021
Amanda Persico

With so many events and celebrations cancelled, one local mother is determined to not let the COVID-19 pandemic take away Georgina’s Pride.

Not only is the Pride Ride a first in the community -- during a pandemic no less -- but it rolls on to become an annual event.

“There’s no way you can tell us not to celebrate,” said Leah Sheridan, a Keswick mother of two who started the Ride in 2020.

Georgina’s Pride Ride cruises into gear June 26 at 3 p.m., and winds along Lake Drive through Keswick, Jackson’s Point and Sutton.

“Everyone loves to drive along Lake Drive,” Sheridan said.

The ride meanders its way from R.L. Graham Public School on Biscayne Boulevard, north on The Queensway to Old Homestead Road, along Lake Drive North and Lake Drive East to Hedge Road, along Park Road and ends at the Tim Hortons in Sutton.

Residents are encouraged to wave and cheer on their driveway along the route and to maintain physical distancing.

What started as a “small, rushed event” has more than quadrupled in size from ride participants and local business support, she added, with more than 200 swag bags and prizes to give away to spectators.

Starting the ride in her local community is full circle for Sheridan, who together with her daughter, rode in the first car in the first ever York Region Pride parade in 2013 in Richmond Hill.

“Nothing will stop this (LGBT2Q) community,” she said. “They stole every ounce of my soul. I need them to know, ‘I got them.’”

Sheridan’s daughter came out when she was about 6 years old and transitioned. And next year, she’ll be able to lead the ride, Sheridan added.

“I needed to be able to support my daughter,” she said, fighting back tears.

“This is for my kids. I’m just an ally. My part as an ally is to let the LGBT2Q community to know how much they are loved and supported.”

While the ride will be physically distant, it’s a celebration, nonetheless.

“We continue to live through what we hope is the last stage of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tristan Coolman with Pflag York Region.

“The pandemic has taken yet another year of Pride and other significant celebrations away from us. Celebrate as safely and as visibly as possible.”

And hosting community specific Pride celebrations is especially important, he added.

“Lived experiences from Steeles Avenue to Lake Simcoe are incredibly varied, let alone queer ones,” Coolman said. “The Pride Ride in Georgina allows Georgina’s LGBT2Q community to feel seen and heard.”

Spreading Pride pride throughout the region is a goal for York Pride, which hosts the annual York Pride Fest parade. This year’s digital York Pride parade is June 25.

“It’s heartening to see the community take things on,” said Jacob Gal with York Pride. “We can’t do everything and be everywhere. It takes a village.”

And the ride fits in with York Pride’s strategic plan for the future, partnering with community groups to offer Pride events throughout the year in different locations throughout the region, Gal added.

For the past two years, the focus has been on digital pride, Gal said. Eyes are on the 2022 event, which is to be a blend of both virtual and in-person events. Not to mention, there are plans to make the annual York Pride festival an multi-day event in the downtown Newmarket core.

“With all the rolling (pandemic) restrictions, it became impossible to run the event safely,” Gal added. “We had to develop our own COVID-19 safety plan as part of the filming industry.”

“Newmarket can own the Pride parade,” Sheridan said. “We have the lake. The ride will continue.”