COLUMBIA — What you want, Baby, I got it.
What you need, you know I got it.
All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.
The Mid-Missouri Karaoke Pride Idol was under way Saturday afternoon at the fifth annual Mid-Missouri LGBT Coalition PrideFest. Shannon McCarville’s vibrant rendition of Aretha Franklin’s signature song, “Respect,” echoed across the green grass, blue sky, rainbow banners and cozy lawn chairs at Stephens Lake Park.
Around 1,000 members and supporters of Mid-Missouri’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community watched two stages of entertainment, played with their children on the playground and visited booths and old friends alike.
“Columbia’s a great town with a great queer community,” said McCarville, 28, of Minneapolis, who is visiting a friend in Columbia.
Rachel Essex, 26, of Moberly, pooled water in her hand from the water fountain and poured it over her toddler brother’s head. Essex said the boy’s mother wanted him to “experience life,” and that’s why he came with her to PrideFest.
“She’s not going to have him be scared of people at all. He’s not going to judge anybody,” Essex said.
Essex, who recently moved to Moberly from Arkansas, was not the only Missouri newcomer to appreciate the safe and accepting environment.
“This is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt,” said Margaret Arredondo, 43, who moved to Columbia from Topeka, Kan. “Not just now, here, today, but in my job, in the city.”
Allen Vaught, 37, recently moved to Columbia from San Francisco. Vaught and his dog, Ritter, both came to PrideFest to meet people in the gay community. Ritter wasn’t entered in Saturday’s Gayest Dog Contest because of a “butchered” haircut.
Although the PrideFest attendance in Columbia has more than doubled in the past decade, some attendees felt the celebrations could be more family-oriented. Brianna Terry, 27, of Mexico, said she hoped Mid-Missouri’s PrideFest can serve as a place for kids to meet other kids in the same situation. Other parents echoed the same hopes for the future, wishing for more activities for the kids.