Jon Aschenbrenner

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Author: Bonnie Heilman & Jack Saddleback

June in Saskatoon. City streets cloaked with green canopies of century elms in full foliage. An explosion of growth finally released after six months of hard winter, pent up and waiting, like the rest of us, for the freedom of summer. Thinking back to his first Pride Parade, Jon was drawn into a colourful community beaming with authenticity, and a pathway of new possibilities unfurled.

For Jon, the beauty of June is one more reason to visit Saskatoon during Pride. This year, we’re keeping each other safe by doing Pride online. When we’re not in pandemic mode, the Saskatoon Pride Festival fills the city with vibrant, live events celebrating the diversity and resilience of our Two Spirit, Trans, and Queer communities.

Saskatoon in June offers far more than the Pride Festival. For the true tree lovers, a self-guided Saskatoon Tree Tour curated by SOS Trees. For the outdoor adventurers, a tour of the mountain bike trails on a rental from Escape Sports. Before you hit the trails, grab a crepe and a coffee at Drift Sidewalk Cafe – one of Saskatoon Pride’s most magical venues in recent years for events like Gurls. For dinner, Jon recommends Primal for its relaxing atmosphere and delicious comfort food. And for a comfortable sleep, the Alt Hotel offers vast river views in a location that’s prime for taking in the Saskatoon Pride Festival and has been known to support the festival with complimentary conference rooms for volunteers and for filming online events.

Our community is stronger because of our allies, and the Saskatoon Pride Festival brings us together. For Jon, a fourth generation settler to these lands, the festival provided opportunities to connect with Two Spirit and BIPOC queer folks in a way that wasn’t possible in the rural Saskatchewan town where he grew up. In the heart of Treaty Six Territory, Saskatoon offers opportunities for people looking to take that journey to build cross-cultural relationships and increase their understanding of intersectionality of oppressions.

Every year, on June 21, Saskatoon celebrates National Indigenous People’s Day on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River. In non-pandemic years, the event brings together nearly 5,000 people for the Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation to “recognize the sacrifices and resilience of Residential School & Day School Survivors, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, and Sixties Scoop Survivors.” It is a profound experience to be amongst thousands of people who are passionate about righting the wrongs of our shared histories. Advocates like OUTSaskatoon help our communities to deepen our understanding of our intersecting struggles, including the very specific ways that colonization has impacted Two Spirit communities.

Like Jon, there are many of us walking this journey in Saskatoon. Regardless of where we are in our understanding, we continue to learn from each other. We welcome anyone, near and far, who wants to share in this journey. We invite you to visit our vibrant city as we learn and grow and celebrate together.