An historic celebration is just around the corner in Amherst, N.S., where the town is preparing for its first ever Pride parade.

Following nine years of sporadic flag raising ceremonies, the community is joining other centres in marking a new chapter of inclusiveness.

“It means the world to me,” says Corey Hunter, grand marshal of the Amherst Pride parade.

Hunter says the times have changed since she attending high school in Amherst 10 years ago.

“When I first came out I was quite young and very embarrassed about it, mostly because there was no visibility, there were no real support groups, and I didn't really feel like it was something to celebrate. Until much later, when these things started to develop,” says Hunter.

She's excited and honoured to be named the grand marshal of Amherst's first Pride parade, which has grown from a simple flag raising ceremony nearly 10 years ago.

“It really isn't about size, it's about heart, and you don't have to be very big to have a big heart,” says Bill Schurman, Amherst’s director of recreation and community development. 

Those early ceremonies were simple, but meaningful. Colleen Dowe recalls having to move the ceremony inside a church because of the rain. She says it was an emotional experience for one elderly gay man who had been ostracized for much of his life.

“He was so hesitant, and actually began to cry when he came in,” says Dowe. “He said, 'This is just so new for me, to be allowed to come into a church and celebrate who I am.'”

Organizers say it's a big step in tackling social, health and government barriers members of the rainbow community face.

“We really see that there's some barriers, and when we don't have representation and we're not celebrating diversity, it really does hinder people's safety. They don't feel comfortable coming out and sharing who they truly are,” says Dawn Ripley of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Amherst Pride Week will kick off with its usual flag raising on May 24, with the much-anticipated parade taking place at Victoria Square on June 3.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.