St. Joseph, Mo., saw its first gay pride festival last year. The one-day event was a special outreach effort of Zion United Church of Christ. Even before that inaugural event was finished, people were asking whether it would be back in 2014.
The answer is yes. This year, St. Joe Pride Fest and Parade is returning as a two-day affair on June 20-21 – a little bigger, but still sized comfortably.
How it started
Two years ago, the Gay-Straight Christian Fellowship at Zion United Church of Christ, 816 Faraon St., held a brainstorming meeting after the screening of a documentary. Members decided to host an LGBT pride event, and on June 8, 2013, they did precisely that. The festival was on the grounds of the church, and it included a variety of musical performances and a small parade.
“This may be the first time a Pride event was conceived, organized and hosted by a church,” said Donna Ross, pastor at Zion UCC. “It became apparent very early that there would be a second Pride and that it would outgrow our church’s resources. Now in the hands of a community group, this year’s Pride will be larger and probably a bit more ‘traditional’ than what one might expect from a Pride event. Still, there is an intentional effort to keep the ‘family-friendly’ theme from last year’s event. The first Pride was an extraordinary endeavor. As a pastor, I was overwhelmed. As a transwoman, I was overjoyed!”
2014 St. Joe Pride
Kansas City’s pride festival has been on the first weekend in June for many years, but this year’s Gay Pride Kansas City will be June 20-22, on the same weekend as St. Joe Pride. Because of this, some Kansas City area LGBT organizations will have staff stretched across two locations.
“While I am frustrated that Kansas City decided to move their celebration to the same weekend as St. Joe’s, I think there still is much to offer,” Ross said. “Certainly, the smaller community will allow for a more intimate celebration. The LGBT community is such that it is counterproductive to compare or compete with one another. I truly hope that both succeed in their missions.”
St. Joe’s festival will be at Coleman Hawkins Park, at Seventh and Felix Streets. You’ll find few proverbial haughty spirits in downtown St. Joseph. Although the pride that is vanity and arrogance goes before destruction, the pride that celebrates diversity and commemorates the struggle for equality is exalted.
St. Joe Pride board president Debbie Baker was happy to share a few festival details. She said it will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Entertainment will include The Clementines, singer/songwriter Jeremiah Clark, and a large Friday night drag show. Vendors, food sellers, craftwork and nonprofits will also be on hand.
“Our festival is a family friendly event,” Baker said. The kids’ area will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The parade will start at noon Saturday, and there will be panel discussions and speakers in the afternoon and early evening. Several performances are scheduled for Saturday evening.
The event is free, and free parking will be available across the street from the park. Well-behaved pets are welcome, but coolers are not. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks will be available for purchase. Attendees are encouraged to walk in the parade after registering online.
When asked about what some see as the corporatization of gay pride events, Baker replied, “We feel that our community is putting Pride on and not businesses. While we do have sponsors and we do appreciate their contributions, we are a nonprofit organization and are using the donations to be able to have Pride.”
For more information, go to St.Joe Pride or look up St Joe Pride on Facebook.
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