Twin Cities Pride Festival Brings Usual Excitement with Some New Flair

Pride Concert Features Village People and CeCe Peniston

Starting college can be a scary yet exciting experience for most young people, but it can be even more so when you’re from out of state, and trying to find your place in a community.

Andrew Nutt was about to start his freshmen year at the University of Minnesota when he first heard of Twin Cities Pride. In the summer of 2007, with the influence of his friends, he decided to check out the festival.

Nutt recalls, “I kind of knew that Minneapolis had a really large GLBT community, but seeing the parade take over Downtown and go to Loring Park kind of took me by surprise. It was overwhelming, but a good feeling.”

Though he had been out for a while, Nutt never had seen such a public display of GLBT culture.

Nutt adds, “I’d never seen a parade with a section of all drag queens, a section of something that wasn’t a satire sitcom on TV. I was shocked by the amount of people that were there.”

Going into his senior year at the U, Nutt has gone to the Pride Festival every year since. That first year, he accidentally found himself in the Dyke March.

Nutt shares, “It was really fun to walk through Minneapolis, and march for a good cause, and just to let people know that we’re here. It was a really good experience doing that. I do it every year now.”

Twin Cities Pride Executive Director Dot Belstler keeps people like Nutt in mind when planning the annual Pride Festival.

The 38th annual Twin Cities Pride Festival is just around the corner: Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27, in Loring Park, Minneapolis.

Planning for this event goes on nearly all year round. Every year, organizers try to make subtle changes to make the experience more memorable.

One of the new things Pride is implementing at this year’s festival is a place for youth between the ages of 13 and 20. The Youth Zone, presented by Best Buy, will be near Living Well Park. It will provide fun, smoke- and chemical-free activities for young people.

Belstler says, “What about the kid from Bemidji who shows up this weekend—how is he going to connect with organizations that can help? This developed as a concept for kids coming in to say, ‘Hey, there is a place for you to connect here.’”

For youth or anyone who never has been to Pride before, Nutt suggests checking out smaller events first. He points out that many local organizations there can be helpful.

Belstler observes that the perennial History Pavilion is a great resource for participants, especially new ones. The world-renowned Tretter Collection will be featured both Saturday and Sunday in the large building at the east end of the lake in Loring Park. Pride-goers can learn about the history and accomplishments of the GLBT community and movement.

Also new this year is Doggie Day, which takes place Saturday, June 26, 11 AM-4 PM, near the Dog Park. It will include lure-coursing and Doggie Drag. Sign-ups to be a foster parent for dogs will be available from Underdog Rescue Minnesota or Small Dog Rescue of Minnesota.

The Pride Concert on Saturday night features the Village People and CeCe Peniston, along with local entertainers DJ Shiek, Ellis, and Electric Avenue. It’s for 18 and older. The cost is just $10.

Of course, Sunday, June 27, is the big day, staring with the Pride Parade. Last year, it drew more than 125,000 people, making it one of the largest in the Upper Midwest. The parade starts at 11 AM along Hennepin Avenue, beginning at Third Street.

This year’s Pride Grand Marshal is Dr. Stan Hill, Artistic Director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Making an appearance in the parade are the winners of the Everyday Hero Award, Paul and Hjordy Wagner, who authored the book Ready or Not…They’re Gay, the story of parenting two gay sons. Their book recently received a Lavender PRIDE Award as well.

Belstler relates, “It’s a great experience to celebrate our whole community. Whether you’re a GLBTQ person, or friend or family or ally, there’s something for you there.”

According to Belstler, building a sense of community is an important part of the Pride Festival. Nutt definitely felt that the first time he went to Pride.

Nutt remarks, “I think it’s hard not to when there’s that amount of people in one area. There’s a lot of friendships, and it’s just really welcoming, and you don’t feel like you have anything to be afraid of.”

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