Mid-Missouri PrideFest brings diversity downtown

Sunday, June 12, 2011 | 5:43 p.m. CDT
Latresa Steve and her dog, LeBron, right, wait for the results of the Mid-Missouri Pride Fest Gayest Dog Contest. They did not place in the competition.

COLUMBIA — The largest Mid-Missouri PrideFest to date filled downtown with music, food, events and community acceptance on Sunday.

Approximately 3,000 people from all walks of life gathered near the intersections of Sixth and Elm streets to see what each of the 44 booths had to offer. 

Booths featured artists, activist groups, political organizations and businesses.

"Everything is family-oriented," Doug Stone, Mid-Missouri PrideFest director, said. "We like to see people come out and have a good time." 

A Gayest Dog Contest, a singing competition, three music acts and a drag show engaged attendees and provided entertainment for event-goers as they relaxed on the patio of Bengals Bar & Grill.  

Six faith-based groups banded together to show acceptance of the LGBTQ community in their congregations at an interfaith service in Peace Park.

"We want people to know we have a church that is open to them," Rosie Harper of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia said. 

The Human Rights Campaign booth was one of several organizations trying to recruit members from the community.

The groups' efforts represent a national movement trying to tap into the LGBTQ activist resources within mid-Missouri. 

This year's PrideFest attracted twice as many visitors as last year, said Stone.

The crowd at Sunday's event included families, couples and friends. Among the attendees was the Stuckey family.

"We're here to show our support and to introduce our child to it," Suky Stuckey said of her two-year-old son Alex.

"So it's something that is natural to him, so it's not something that is unknown." her husband Sean Stuckey added.

The PrideFest planning committee hopes to see another year of record-breaking attendance at next year's festival. The committee is considering holding next year's event later in the year to include college-age students who will be back in town for school in the fall.

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