COLUMBIA — Rainbows, rainbows, everywhere you looked throughout Stephens Lake Park on Saturday. People of all ages were gathered to attend the sixth annual PrideFest, Columbia's largest yet.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, as well as friends and family, were greeted with 35 booths and two stages of entertainment featuring an African dance group, musicians, a "gayest dog" competition, a karaoke contest and a drag show.
Shirley Moffit just moved to Columbia from Chicago, where PrideFest is a much larger event than it is in Columbia, complete with floats and parade. Moffit said she prefers Columbia’s style.
“It’s more activities, people sitting around, people to talk to,” Moffit said. “I like that.”
Moffit’s partner insisted they bring their dog, Lebron, to participate in the gayest dog competition and made sure he was dressed in the most fashionable collar.
There was a lot to do at the event, with activities such as washers and “hillbilly golf”," a game similar to washers where players try to wrap a golf ball tied to a string around the rungs of a ladder for points. For younger participants, there was a kids’ activity and craft center, which offered face painting. Michelle Twitty, vendor coordinator for PrideFest, said the family-friendly environment attracted a wide demographic.
“I would guess anywhere from birth to 50,” Twitty said about the ages of those in attendance.
The social atmosphere has given Columbia resident Amy Palmer a reason to attend the event each year.
“I know almost everyone here,” Palmer said. “It’s one of the only PrideFests that’s close and affordable.”
Megan Lee, co-coordinator and board member of Prism, an organization for LGBT youths, said she is glad the Columbia PrideFest has stayed localized.
“I enjoy the small-towniness of it,” Lee said. “It’s neat to see a PrideFest that’s not corporate-sponsored.”
Columbia’s Pridefest is sponsored by the Mid-Missouri LGBT Coalition, which raises money through drag shows and community support, said Dustin Hampton, member of the PrideFest organization committee.
Booths were sponsored by political groups, faith-based organizations, health organizations and local businesses.
“We try to target businesses we know people are connected to,” Twitty said.
Despite the largest number of booths and entertainment venues to date, Twitty still wasn’t satisfied. “It could definitely get bigger next year,” she said.
SoCo Club owner Marty Newman has attended PrideFest every year since it began and agrees that the event should keep growing as a presence in the city.
“The community is big, and people should know,” Newman said.