A celebration of inclusion was held Saturday afternoon at Ethel Tucker Centennial Park in Okotoks during the first Pride event in the town’s history.

According to members of the Foothills Rainbow Connection, a grassroots initiative, the family-friendly Pride in the Park festival was open to everyone and served as a testament to noticeable change within the community.

“Because it’s a community festival, I think it brings out more people who aren’t so comfortable at (regular) Pride events and straight people who sometimes don’t understand that allies are a huge part of our community,” said Marissa Johnston, one of the event’s organizers. “This is more of a fun, low-key environment for people to celebrate everyone.”

The event included the distribution of kindness rocks, brightly coloured rocks bearing positive messages, a kid zone, live music, glitter tattoos and a story time where drag queens read to the children.

Johnston says she grew up in Okotoks before moving abroad and, upon her return, the town had changed for the better. “It’s definitely not the town I grew up in and it’s becoming a great place for everyone to live.”

Dallas Mustard, a musician who took to the Pride in the Park stage, said the event was about “coming together for a common cause and just having a great time”.

Mustard applauds her hometown for embracing an event that was years in the making. “This is amazing for Okotoks . To be this small (population wise) and also this inclusive and breaking past the stereotype of small-minded, small town.”

Dianne Lynch took in the festival alongside her husband and their two sons. The family sported shirts promoting love and acceptance.

“When the words of hate get loud we want to make sure our words of love are louder,” said Lynch. “That's what inspired the shirts and we wanted to come out and be part of this beautiful day.”

Tom Barker, the Okotoks resident who raised the rainbow flag at the festival, said the event is a celebration of community.“I hope that people who come here actually see who supported it is and how actually open Okotoks is.”

The festival was followed by an after-party at The Royal Duke Hotel.

With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg