Grand Rapids Pride Fest to celebrate LGBTQ community
To commemorate June being LGBT Pride Month, the annual Grand Rapids Pride Festival will be held to honor and celebrate the greater LGBTQ community.
There will be an $8 fee to enter the festival Saturday, June 17, in downtown Grand Rapids. The event, which will go from noon to midnight, will feature a selection of vendors and booths, as well as music and live drag performances.
The festival means different things to different people who attend, although the event serves the main purpose of allowing the LGBTQ community to express itself surrounded by people who appreciate that expression.
“Pride is fundamentally about honoring and celebrating LGBTQIA+ history while calling attention to the ongoing and changing needs of queer and trans people,” said Marla Wick, assistant director of the Grand Valley State University Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center.
Wick said pride events are a place to put explicit attention on the LGBT community and the issues its members face.
“Pride always feels like a party, and for good reason, but it's simultaneously about LGBTQIA+ people making themselves visible to the broader community and speaking up about ongoing threats, injustices and accomplishments," Wick said.
Furthermore, Wick said visibility aids people in the community by giving them an insight into their history as a community.
“Pride celebrations are important because they create both a vibrant link with our history and a space of visibility and celebration,” Wick said. “People can come together and really see the strength and beauty of this community.”
Members of the LGBT community regard pride events as a source of healing after heartbreaking events.
“After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year, a lot of us were afraid to go to gay clubs and even pride festivals,” said Tia Danes, a Grand Rapids resident who is planning to attend the festival. “Coming into this year, though, I want to celebrate in memory of the victims of the attack. I feel so honored to be a part of the queer community and have this huge family that mourns and celebrates together.”
Wick said GVSU’s presence at the festival is an important reminder of the work the university does.
“The LGBT Resource Center has a presence at Grand Rapids Pride every year, spearheaded by our friends in the LGBT Alumni Chapter,” Wick said. “Having GVSU be a visible and supportive presence at Pride upholds our commitment to creating welcoming and inclusive campuses for students, faculty and staff.”
For those who attend events during Pride Month, seeing the celebration of their identities can be an empowering experience.
“The first parade I went to was in Buffalo, New York, and I just remember the thrill of seeing queer and trans people being out and gorgeous and loud,” Wick said. “This is a powerful thing for a community that is often subject to tremendous pressure to be small, quiet and invisible.”
Pride Month events can also be filled with emotion for those in attendance.
“Going to Pride for me is about feeling connected with my people again, seeing all of these people unapologetic about who they are and who they love," Danes said. "It’s very touching, like, move you to tears touching.”
For more information about the festival, visit www.grpride.org/fest/.