COLUMBIA — Babies, children, adults and puppies braved the heat and rain during the 2010 Mid-Missouri PrideFest on Sunday. Organizations united to celebrate the theme “One World. One Heart. One Pride.”
The free event moved downtown for the first time this year. The six previous festival were at Stephens Lake Park. Vendors set up booths in Peace Park, and performers took to the stage on Eighth Street.
“It’s a bigger platform to let people know that you can live right here in central Missouri and still be an out and proud person,” said Daniel Glosser, organizer of the gayest dog contest.
Glosser said he has been attending "Prides," including those in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for more than 25 years. When he moved to Columbia two years ago, he knew he wanted to get involved with the local PrideFest.
“It’s important that Missourians see we don’t have two heads and three horns and humps on our back. We’re your next door neighbors, your friends, your colleagues and the people you sit in church with,” Glosser said.
Glosser said the LGBT community does not have as big a political presence in Columbia as in Chicago but it is “growing slowly and surely.”
Jennifer Baker, chairwoman of the LGBT Coalition PrideFest Commitee, said a significantly larger number of businesses helped with the event this year.
Jessica Schlosser owns Lizzi and Rocco’s Natural Pet Market. She has attended PrideFest before, but this year marked her first time as a vendor.
“I think it’s really important for people to be supportive,” Schlosser said.
Baker expected 1,500 people to turn out, compared with last year’s 1,100. PrideFest is entirely volunteer-run, and donations support next year’s PrideFest.
“It’s extremely family-friendly,” Baker said. “That’s one of the focuses we have at Mid-Mo PrideFest.”
Leslea White and her partner brought their 5-year-old and 1-year-old sons with them to PrideFest, which they attend every year.
“I think it’s good for people to get together and to accept diversity,” White said. “I feel comfortable being here.”
One of the most anticipated parts of the day was the gayest dog contest, a costume contest open to all dogs. One dog sported butterfly wings, and another wore a rainbow bandanna.
“Our dogs are like our children,” Glosser said into a microphone as the crowd cheered and owners strutted up and down Eighth Street with their stylish dogs.
After watching pugs, bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers, judges selected a poodle named Claude as the gayest “genetically male” dog. The crowd laughed at the term Glosser used as he explained that he didn't want to "offend any gay dogs."
Roots Nouveau Salon, owned by Tim Root, sponsored the Upstage! Drag Extravaganza.
“It’s important to me, being a local gay business owner, to be out there and let people know that we’re here,” Root said.
Because of sudden severe thunderstorms, the drag show moved inside to the Tin Can Tavern and Grille. About 100 soaked and sweaty attendees packed the bar. Performers lip synced and danced while the crowd handed them dollar bills and whooped and cheered.
"The show must go on,” Root said in reference to adjustments for the weather.
At a drag show June 5 at SoCo Club, David Northern, stage name “Havanna Fitt,” was crowned queen, and Katie Fitzpatrick, also known as “Will Lickit," was named king of the 2010 PrideFest. The king and queen did a final show Sunday afternoon.
Root said Fitzpatrick, a straight woman, is a great ally for the gay community.
PrideFest in Columbia is one of many celebrations throughout the country during the month of June. This year is the second year President Barack Obama proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month.
Obama's written proclamation calls "upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists."
Celebrations such as PrideFest promote LGBT visibility, unity and progress toward full equal civil rights.
Glosser said, “It takes one stone to make a ripple in the pond, to make a wave in the ocean."