Pine City, Minn., May 26, 2015– East Central Minnesota Pride organizers have announced another LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) pride event for the predominantly rural portion of Minnesota tucked just between the Twin Cities and the Twin Ports of Duluth-Superior.
The event will take place Sunday, June 7, from Noon to 5 p.m. at Pine City’s Voyageur Park and VFW, at 600 1st Street NW. The theme of this year’s event is “Transforming Hearts and Minds” something that organizers say this rural LGBT pride festival has done since its inception. The event includes live music, an alpaca petting zoo, a barbeque, vendors, politicians, and more.
“The recent changes in federal, state, and local laws to eliminate sexual orientation and gender identification inequality sometimes can lull me into feeling that events like Pride are no longer needed,” said Julie Redpath of Lindström, but countered, “I think of the LGBT people who are just coming out because hearts and minds and laws are changing, and I know they still need safe places to find community and celebrate who they are, especially in rural areas and small towns.”
Bigger cities across the U.S. have held prides for decades; New York, Chicago and San Francisco have had pride events—either marches or parades—since 1970. The gay pride in Pine City began when it was just one of two rural prides in the nation. And, it is the first pride in the State of Minnesota to be held each year during what President Obama has declared as “Pride Month”, June.
Other notable Minnesota gay prides are held in Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth-Superior, Mankato, Rochester and the Twin Cities, each of which are in metropolitan areas.
“When I was younger, it was great to see an event in my hometown,” said Ashley Ackley, a 2006 Pine City High School graduate, then named John. “It showed that the general atmosphere about LGBT acceptance changing and evolving publicly. Knowing that perceptions were changing helped me feel safer in my own town.”
What’s on Tap?
The music lineup this year includes Calliope Women’s Chorus, Neighberz Band, and a special performance by Hedwig of the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, as well as tracks played by Deejay Geo Montecillo.
Calliope Women’s Chorus is a feminist chorus dedicated to promoting social change through song. Since 1976, they have been producing concerts and performing for public events to bring quality social justice-themed music to the broader community.
The Neighberz Band is based in North Branch, Minn., and is a country and gospel band. The band has been in the studio recently working on its new CD, “Neighberz and Friends”, featuring the band and several of the members’ musician and singing friends they have come to know over the years.
Excerpts from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will also be a featured component of entertainment schedule as the costars of the recent Duluth Playhouse production will present a live soundtrack from the triple award-winning play written by John Cameran Mitchell. Duluth’s version of “Hedwig” was named “Best Local Play” by the Northland Reader’s “Best of The Northland 2014”. Ogilvie-native Alec Schroeder, as Hedwig, won “Best Local Actor of 2014”.
Television news and radio personality Val Mondor will be the event’s emcee this year. Mondor, who resides with her wife in Chisago City, has been with Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) since 1979, editing both long- and short-format programs, including news, science reporting, music and arts performance, and documentaries of all sorts; she worked on such series such as Newton’s Apple and Almanac, among others. Mondor also provided voiceover talent for programs and commercials for tpt, and outside of work has been a board member of “Out in the Valley” (LGBT organization in the St. Croix River Valley) since its inception in 1999.
Invited to come are several public officials, including past-attendee Gov. Mark Dayton. For the second time, area mayors—this year Pine City Mayor Carl Pederson and North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy—will give official welcomes to attendees.
Admission is FREE. Suggested donation for food line: $10
Why a Pride in Pine City?
According to organizers of the event, East Central Minnesota Pride was started in 2005 as a way to bring about a sense of LGBT community, build awareness, and promote tolerance in Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties. It is known as one of the few rural LGBT pride events in the World.
As such, it has drawn opposition by some over the years and event promotions have, at times, been controversial. Early on, some people were offended by advertisements circulated locally, including one that said, “It’s okay to be GAY in Pine City.” The ad featured a pink boa around the neck of a voyageur monument in the park where the event is held. Later, the words “Happy Pride!” advertised on a community sign on school grounds offended others.
This year, Pride organizers have displayed a banner over Pine City’s Main Street to highlight the community event and the reaction has been quite positive, they say.
“People are becoming so much more accepting of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors who have always been in their communities,” asserted Redpath.
Everyone is welcome at Pride, a rendezvous of friends, family and the larger community. And, while it is just a picnic of sorts, it is also a statement heard far beyond Pine City, and the region.
More than ever in the event’s history, there is a collaboration to bring about East Central Minnesota Pride, one that involves East Central Minnesota Men’s Circle, East Central Minnesota Purple Circle, the Mora-based East Central Minnesota chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Rural Aids Action Network, Rainbow Health Initiative and Out-Front Minnesota.
Several businesses throughout the region support and help sponsor the event as well such as Cambridge State Bank, Affinity Credit Union, Walmart and Home Town Liquor of Braham.
The event was recognized at the Minnesota State Fair in 2011 as an award-winner in the “Community Pride Showcase”. It was highlighted as a way the Greater Pine City area is moving beyond economic challenges with creative and proactive community and economic development innovations.
# # #