NORTH BAY -- Talk shows, interviews and musical acts are all on the agenda for North Bay PRIDE this weekend, with some big-name celebrities making their way to the city.

Now, it won’t involve any in-person gatherings and the annual march downtown has been cancelled due to COVID-19, but organizers weren’t about to cancel the event.

“We thought, let’s do something different, let’s do something really big, let’s make it so people feel like they’re in the theatre watching a show and then they can feel like they’re a part of something that’s much bigger,” said media coordinator Jason Maclennan.

Bif Naked, Logan Staats and Colin Mochrie will all be in the city this weekend at the Capital Centre for the free event, which will be streamed on Facebook Live.

“I’ll tell you, I’ve never had such a fast response in my entire life from artists of that calibre,” said Maclennan. “It was like two days, max, we were hearing back from them, ‘Yeah, we want to be a part of PRIDE, this is a great thing, we’re excited.’”

'Love is just love'

Staats, a singer/songwriter from 6 Nations Mohawk Turtle Clan, is set to hit the stage Friday evening.

“Sexual orientation isn’t something that even mattered to us,” Staats said on Friday morning at the Capital Centre, where he was testing out the theatre. “Love is just love where I come from. And another thing that I relate to directly is just the fight for equality. So to be here and to be chosen to just be a little part of that, for me, was just really important and something I wanted to support.”

Maclennan said North Bay PRIDE has doubled its attendance every year, with last year seeing 5,500 people at the march downtown. Even though this year will be done on a virtual platform, it is designed to serve the same purpose – bring people together.

“We recognize that PRIDE is not just a celebration,” he said. “It is a protest and that’s important to know because we talk about equality and so forth. But it’s also a sense of belonging in the community and I think a lot of people, there’s a lot of mental health issues, especially with LGBT folks and so forth, so we want to make sure that there’s some sense of normalcy.”

That's a point that actor/improviser Mochrie, who will be live on Facebook on Sunday, agrees with.

Empathy in short supply

“It seems right now, in this particular period of time, empathy seems to be in short supply and it’s really easy to step back and think ‘how would I react if I was in that person’s shoes?’” said Mochrie. “But people don’t seem to take that time. I’d suggest, take that time.”

“We all want the same thing, we all want to be the best we can be," he continued. "We all want to find love, we want to be happy. We want to be our true selves. So I say listen, learn and try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Each performance this weekend will bring something different to the table. Staats said people can expect a glimpse into his journey.

“I’m a storyteller, it’s something that’s embodied in everything I do, it’s in my blood,” he said. “So you can expect some stories and these songs of my whole process of reclamation and healing and so you’re pretty much just going to hear my healing journey through song.

Meanwhile, Mochrie isn’t quite sure what his role will look like yet.

'I have no idea!'

“That’s the beauty -- I have no idea!" he said. "If you’ve kept tabs on my career, first of all God bless you. Secondly, I have no idea from moment to moment what’s happening and that’s what gives me the most fun in life. So we’ll see what happens! I’m looking forward to chatting and having fun.”

Mochrie has a personal reason for joining PRIDE events, but said coming to North Bay this year was an easy decision.

His daughter came out as transgender three years ago and Mochrie said that helped teach him a lot over the years and prove why PRIDE needs allies.

“She is an avid spokesperson for the community," he said. "She is a bit of an activist, so I think she’s proud that both of her parents take such an active interest in this.”

The event will also feature some local artists and will be completely free on North Bay PRIDE's Facebook page.

“We worked really hard with our local governments, we worked really hard with our sponsors, and it’s been challenging this year to raise money,” said Maclennan. “The technical side of this alone is very, very expensive. You’ve got camera crews, production and sound and then you have to link it all together so it can go through social media, so we wanted to make sure it was free this year.”

People watching on Facebook live with also be able to comment and submit questions during the interview sessions.