- East Central Minnesota Pride held June 3 in Pine City
For the eighth-straight year, Voyageur Park in Pine City, Minn. (pop. 3,123) will be the setting to East Central Minnesota Pride, a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) pride event to be held Sunday, June 3, 2012 from Noon to 5 p.m. There will be music, food and—this year—an all-inclusive ‘rendezvous’ of friends and community.
The event began in 2005, aiming to give LGBT people, those questioning, and their friends, family and allies an opportunity to meet and build community in an otherwise isolated part of the state.
“The hard part is the distance in rural areas, to meet people… where and how?” suspects Don Quaintance, of Isanti, Minn., one of the event organizers. “The annual picnic allows us to gather together to celebrate how far we’ve come,” he said.
Without the event, he and other organizers believe there may not be as strong of an LGBT community in East Central Minnesota. They say the event serves as a mechanism for civil rights engagement, as LGBT people across Minnesota are currently banding together for civil rights.
“The endeavor promotes tolerance through a community dialogue about LGBT issues,” said Nathan Johnson, of Pine City, and a candidate for State Representative in House District 11B.
Invited to come are several public officials, including Gov. Mark Dayton who attended in 2010, and other candidates vying for political office. The band lineup this year returns Yasen Marie and Harley Wood, who has ventured into a solo career, as well as newcomers to the event, Chastity Brown and Nobody’s Weddin’.
Perhaps there are several ways in which East Central Minnesota Pride has improved the quality of life in this part of the State, taking on the weighty task of building a more LGBT-friendly atmosphere in rural Minnesota—specifically, the area ranging Forest Lake to Moose Lake, and from Milaca to Siren, Wis.
“Equality means being equal,” explained Quaintance, a senior and veteran. “It is everyone being given a chance for the same thing. Hopefully, pride allows those folks who are still living in the closet to come out, stand up and be counted.”
Given the measure on the ballot this fall to redefine marriage to discriminate against same-sex couples, Quaintance feels this year’s event is especially important.
“We are family, have families, and deserve the same respect and equality as all other loving couples. This has nothing to do with the church. This is a legal right,” he said.
Summer of Pride Kickoff
This, the first pride in the State to be held each year during Pride Month—June—really kick-starts the marriage debate leading up to the November amendment ballot.
Richard Carlbom, the campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, said, “Minnesotans United is proud to participate in East Central Minnesota Pride. Each summer, hundreds of Minnesotans gather to celebrate the belief that we should treat our friends and neighbors how we want to be treated.”
“This annual community event gives Minnesotans the opportunity to stand united together saying that freedom means freedom for everybody. As former Mayor of Saint Joseph I know the importance of building supportive, rural communities,” said Carlbom. “East Central Pride is a hallmark event that brings Minnesotans together to celebrate our diverse communities.”
Quaintance said that pride is about being “proud of whom you are. God created us this way, this is His plan. Take pride. Vote ‘no’ on this year’s constitutional marriage amendment!”
Bigger cities across the globe, from Sydney, Australia to Minneapolis, have had prides for decades. The gay pride in Pine City began when it was just one of two rural prides in the nation to be held. The need has been evident in the event’s growth, from record attendance numbers to a record number of vendors, sponsors and supporters.
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, 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.
The entire event is innovative in that it isn’t being done elsewhere in a small town, to this scale, and therefore, it was recognized at the Minnesota State Fair last year as an award-winner in the annual “Community Pride Showcase”. It was shared as a way the Greater Pine City area is moving beyond current economic challenges with creative and proactive community and economic development innovations.
The other Minnesota gay prides are in Duluth-Superior, Fargo-Moorhead, Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, each of which are in metropolitan areas. Since Pine City’s pride has proven successful, other Outstate cities such as Brainerd and Willmar have tried their hands at pride as well. The event and the ways in which it is planned and organized have served as a model for other small-town gay prides that have formed across the State and elsewhere in the U.S.
The next steps, according to organizers, are to evaluate the event and determine what improvements can be made, and how it can reach a wider LGBT audience in the East Central Minnesota area. Also, organizers hope to make the event nonthreatening for those who are closeted living in the region, who may also wish to come out and meet other LGBT people living nearby.
A Pine City business owner, Dennis Burns, of DB Signs said, “I’m more than proud of the GLBT community in East Central Minnesota. They all work very hard every year to put together the Pine City event.”
A Rainbow Rendezvous
This year’s event, themed “Equality Matters: A Rainbow Rendezvous”, pays homage to the French Voyageurs who traveled long distances centuries ago to gather at the wintering post just 1.5 miles upriver from the park.
Before the United States was a country, voyageurs trekked through the wild woods of the future Minnesota, trapping and trading, and blazing a trail that would be walked upon by subsequent generations. So important is the mark they left that Pine City has erected a 35-foot-tall carving along the picturesque Snake River’s North Shore. The voyageur’s redwood shadow falls across the park that bears his name.
But, on June 3, that shadow will touch men and women who honor the voyageur’s spirit in their own way.
About Pine City
Pine City (pop. 3,123) is located just north of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, on I-35, between St. Paul and Duluth. It was named “Outstanding Community” of 2009 by the Initiative Foundation and in 2010 and 2011, has been named a “Best Community in America” for music education by the NAMM Foundation. Known for its progressive spirit, it is the county seat of and largest city in Pine County, which borders the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Pine City, Minnesota, makes a woodsy getaway so close by. With its forests, river and lakes, the area appeals especially to outdoor enthusiasts. Water lovers will find activities on the Snake River and several lakes, including 1,536-acre Pokegama Lake and 938-acre Cross Lake.
The Snake River beckons to canoeists. Bring your own canoe or use one that East Central Minnesota Pride has provided courtesy of Snake River Outfitters (www.snakeriveroutfittersmn.com). Paddle the 15-minutes it takes to arrive ‘back in time’—to 1804—to the North West Company Fur Post, and watch for bald eagles, loons, bears and deer while paddling upriver.
The NW Company Fur Post, a Minnesota Historical Society site, has activities planned throughout pride weekend, allowing folks to step out of the modern visitor’s center there into the recreated world of 1804. Learn from costumed guides, stop at an Ojibwe encampment and take a short hike to the reconstructed post. More information can be found out at www.mnhs.org/places/sites/nwcfp.
Area Sporting Goods Retailers/Bait Shops
- Walmart SuperCenter, 950 Evergreen Sq SW
- Tall Tales Bait & Tackle, 540 Main St S
- Holiday StationStore, 715 13th St SW
- Holiday StationStore, 570 Main St S
The dock on the Snake River at Voyageur Park makes a productive waterway to cast your line for muskie, walleye, bass, pike, catfish, perch, crappie and sunfish. Be sure to buy a Minnesota state fishing license at a sporting goods store or a bait shop in Pine City before you cast your line.
Pine City is the county seat of Pine County. Of the 87 counties in Minnesota, Pine County has the third-highest proportion of same-sex couples in the state behind just Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.
Nathan Johnson, Pine City’s city planner, noted that Pine City’s proximity to the Twin Cities, as well as its openness, has contributed to an increase in same-sex couples choosing to locate in the area. Another reason for the concentration of gay couples in the Pine City area might be that the city lives up to its motto: “North. Nice and close.”
“People are coming here from the Twin Cities area, primarily, because of the great quality of life,” said Johnson. “We are home to a health food store, gyms, a community theater and an arts center.”
“…Not to mention the recreational aspects of the Snake River and nearby lakes,” he added. “And, one can buy anything from hummus to sushi here.”
The community has a long-held tradition of celebrating its richness. Other annual Pine City community events highlight the culture of the area as well, such as the Czech and Slovak Booya Festival at the Sokol Camp just east of town, and the Festival of the Voyageur Fall Gathering and Rendezvous at the North West Co. Fur Post.
The 81st annual Booya Festival will be held Aug. 19 and the 34th annual Fall Gathering will be held Sept. 15-16, 2012.