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Happy faces, dancing feet dominate Penticton's Pride Winter Ball

Ever been to one of those events where it takes an hour or two and likely a couple drinks or more just to get someone -- anyone -- on the dance floor? And even then, everyone seems so darned self conscious?

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Of course. Happens all the time.

But not Saturday night at Penticton's Days Inn, where the dance floor in the impressively decorated Riverside Conference Centre was wild and crazy all night long.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Seems the 2SLGBTQIA+ community knows how to get down.

The occasion was the South Okanagan Similkameen Pride Society's first-ever Pride Winter Ball, a cold-season celebratory gathering where the style of dress was formal, the space was safe for all, and the music, courtesy DJ Splendid Bastard, was pumping.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"We've never done a formal event," said SOS Pride board member and spokesperson Heather Adamson, "where we're promoting it like a ball, where we're encouraging people to get all dolled up.

"And that's super fun for our community. People know it’s a safe space to dress however they feel comfortable and however they want to express themselves."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

In the lively crowd Saturday night were people like Li Abbey, a 30-year-old server who called the evening a "second chance."

"You don't really get many second chances in life," they said. "I wasn't out at my prom, and I definitely wasn't comfortable. Now I get to be with my queer folks. It's a safe place for us. We're very lucky."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Li Abbey

In their spare hours, Abbey, who came to the Okanagan from Ontario, operates a book club at the Penticton Library called "Pride Pages." They said it's "great" and added that "I've made some of the best friends I've ever made" in their new town.

Also enjoying the vibes was noted two-spirit performance artist Madeline Terbasket, taking a night off from entertaining to be entertained.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Madeline Terbasket

"The SOS Pride Society brings 2SLGBTQIA+ people together so we don't feel alone and we don’t feel the discrimination of the world alone," they said.

However, added Terbasket, better known to many as their drag character Rez Daddy, "For something like this, the Pride Ball, I think it's so important to just have fun….together.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"Queer joy is really important."

Certainly two of the most central people Saturday were Chris Anderson and partner Chef Nene Lofrano, who together make up FoodieLicious, the catering company headquartered inside the Riverside Conference Centre space.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Chef Nene and Chris Anderson

Not only did they spend most of the evening making and serving yummy finger food for the masses, they also generously donated the space and the profits from beverage sales.

"Tonight is our thank-you," said Anderson. "We do corporate work and a lot of community work, and this is one of the groups we choose to help out."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"They have a great outreach program for kids," added Lofrano. "We donate our time for that, giving cooking lessons to the kids. We had to stop for COVID but we'll start again soon.

"They provide a real safe space for people who are gay and transgender, particularly the kids coming out."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Greeting folks at the door and helping ensure proceedings flowed along smoothly, SOS Pride board member Melissa Edgerly said Li Abbey was far from the only attendee to regard the event as a belated prom.

"When we do the youth prom every year," they said, "we have so many people who ask where the adult one is. So a lot of us who graduated and didn’t really get to take who we wanted to prom, this is their night."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> DJ Splendid Bastard

The only downside to the evening, and even then it was a marginal downside, was the premature capping of ticket sales.

"We sold out a week in advance," said Adamson, "and since then we’ve had 35 people who contacted us who wanted tickets. And we realized we could have been over 100 people if we hadn't capped it."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

For more info on the South Okanagan Similkameen Pride Society and its events and happenings, check the website here.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

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