Latino Gay Pride is coming back Sept. 7 for its fifth consecutive year of music, food, friends and fun. In a setup much like years past, the main event will be at Hyde Park at 37th Street and Gillham Road in Kansas City, Mo., The environment will be family-friendly and free to everyone.

Mario Canedo, who started the event and has headed it for each of these five years, said, “In addition to the musical entertainment and drag Latinas, there is free food and an area for kids so they can have fun, too. It’s 100 percent family-friendly.”

The festival, from 2 to 9 p.m., will be followed by an after-party that night at Social bar at 1118 McGee St. Unlike the main event at the park, the after-party costs a $5 donation to get in and is restricted to those who are age 21 and older.

To get Latino Gay Pride rolling locally, it just took one man with fire in his belly. This event that Canedo has organized each year started with a deep sense of pride for his community and a desire to do something in the city he loves. He wanted to create an event that was both fun and educational. That’s what is most important to him.

“There were a variety of factors that I considered. First, the importance of my community. The several minutes I got with Kansas City Pride wasn’t sufficient for me. I wanted something more. There was so much I wanted to do, and we needed more time and our own space to do it,” Canedo said, in an interview conducted in Spanish.

Canedo has been the community prevention specialist for the Good Samaritan Project for six years, so the educational aspect of this festival was one of crucial aspects of Latino Gay Pride for him.

“I give talks about how to protect yourself and get tested for HIV,” Canedo said. “There will be HIV testing at Latino Gay Pride for those who want to get tested.”

He stressed the importance of providing useful information to the Latino community.

“The AIDS epidemic is one that ruptured not only the gay Latino community, but the general gay community as well,” he said.

Although it is possible to live with AIDS today without it being an automatic death warrant, Canedo says people should not be content with that. “Information and the prevention campaigns have done a lot for the community, and I thought if I could combine that while also providing entertainment, it’s definitely something that has yielded good results.”

Canedo also hopes that events like this will inspire others to get more involved. “If you think you have the creativity and the drive, please do it — get involved,” he said.

Canedo travels quite a bit and sees what other cities have to offer, which he says is often more than what Kansas City now has. But, he said, Kansas City has the capacity to do what these cities are accomplishing.

“I want people to get involved in their communities and do great things. Great change won’t come from our obsession with technology. Watching TV and checking Facebook might be preventing progress. We need face-to-face connection. That’s why I think events like this are important — it allows us to come together in a real physical space, to come together [...> and support each other,” he said.

Latino Gay Pride has grown every year, and Canedo is very happy with the result and the support he has received.

He said, “I just want to people to know how thankful I am, and how much appreciation I have for the support we have gotten, and all the help. We’re going on five years, and I am humbled by those who have been there, the organizations, the people. … Please keep supporting and looking forward to this event for years to come.”

Check out the Facebook event page for a complete performance lineup: 2013 Latino Gay Pride"

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