Columbia Heights is Full of Pride
For this Small Town Pride issue of Lavender, I got the chance to interview Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula on what to expect for the 2022 Pride celebration in her city of Columbia Heights. The Mayor has been an integral part of the Columbia Heights Pride organization since its first inception. It was through her work as a community organizer that she first heard the suggestion of doing a Pride festival for the city. While the initial reaction from the government was unsupportive, the outcry from the community cemented her resolve.
“The rest of the council, the city- the support just came from everywhere,” Márquez Simula said. Columbia Heights held its first Pride celebration in 2019 to great success and continued in 2020 with a virtual event. This year, like last year, will be in person, and there will be plenty to look forward to. One important thing to remember though- this festival will be held in October.
“We had talked about doing it in June,” the Mayor reflects, “But all of our volunteers would want to go to Twin Cities Pride. So, we don’t want to compete with that. We also really enjoyed having it in the fall- you know summer can get so busy, people are traveling…and the only weekend that worked between all of the volunteers being able to be there ended up being October! But we loved it.” The later date also gives the chance for the local high school’s Gay/Straight Alliance to get involved. “That’s important to us- we’re trying to be inclusive to all ages.”
So, what can be expected of the event this year? Well, much is still in the planning stages, but past Prides (held in Sullivan Lake Park) have included food trucks, local vendors, face painting, live entertainment, and the ‘Pride of Homes’ Tour, where Columbia Heights residents are encouraged to create outdoor lawn exhibits in recognition of Pride!
The event itself is organized by Heights Next, a non-profit organization that Márquez Simula helped create.
“Height’s Next mission is to promote sustainability and community building.” She tells me, “And we truly see that- having the neighborhood support us, the local church, to provide that parking is huge.”
She also shared her experience with the police.
“The police understand that it hasn’t been the best…there hasn’t been the best relationship with police and the LGBTQ community in the past. In Columbia Heights I feel like it’s a very good relationship but people visiting this might not know that.”
Márquez Simula has been in conversation with the police even prior to her position as Mayor and says that the understanding is clear that while their overt presence might not be welcomed at Pride, they are ready and on hand should they be called upon. “That’s been really helpful,” She adds, “The city is very respectful of the community and the history that there has been before and wanting to make sure they are appropriate.”
The mayor also wanted to highlight the family-friendly nature of the event.
“There’s other Pride festivals that are more for adults. And this one we really wanted to be like a daytime fun festival, for families. And the turnout we have seen has just been so heartwarming.”
Mayor Márquez Simula’s commitment to the public really shone through in our conversation, as she spoke passionately on her allyship to the queer community. Progress cannot be made without passionate public officials like her, and I’m sure all those who get the chance to experience Columbia Heights Pride will be able to see that passion on full display.