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A look back at PrideFest

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2010 - Pride today certainly isn't just for LGBT folk - the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In this 31st year for St. Louis Pride, approximately 85,000 people attended the two-day celebration.

The fun and upbeat festival celebrates self pride and community respect. And the people who attended crossed all lines of race, age, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.

All four major regional political leaders appeared at the Pride Parade, including St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and the president of the City Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed, along with St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and the chair of the County Council, Barbara Fraser.

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan was in the parade and presented several letters of recognition on the main stage to the Pride organization and Playwright Joan Lipkin, who won the first Pride Lifetime Achievement Award. The increase in participation by politicians seemed to recognize the region's efforts to be inclusive of all its citizens. Reed presented Pride with a resolution of commendation approved by a record 26 of the 28 aldermen.

In addition to the parade, the weekend included a 5k run, a couples commitment ceremony and a pet parade. The festival featured close to 120 vendors providing food, services, merchandise and information. An annual community interfaith service was held on Thursday evening at the Metropolitan Community Church with one dozen Jewish and Christian congregation leaders participating. There was also the annual Mass on the Grass Sunday morning hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of St. Louis. Pride hosted a family friendly children's play area. Entertainment included several dances and lots of music and performances on the main stage including Charis, Gateway Men's Chorus with headliners Jennifer Holiday and Crystal Waters.

Increased visibility of police and fire departments was also achieved due to the joint efforts of this past year's newly created LGBT Regional Police and Fire/EMT Liaison Coalition working with Pride. The goal of this coalition is to establish open lines of communication with regional public safety departments to bring about positive community relations including support for LGBT employees. St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson participated in the parade as did Police Chief Daniel Isom, leading a contingent of police officers. For the first time St. Louis County Police were represented, with Chief Tim Fitch marching among those at the head of the parade.

One of several programs on safety was conducted by St. Louis City Police Sergeant Mike Mueller and St. Louis County Detective Keith Wildhaber. The workshop dealt with hate crimes, anti-violence and domestic abuse.

Pride is about being proud and out, but it is also an opportunity to bring in others in the larger community, to learn from each other and to build respectful relationships. Professional diversity trainers from three major local organizations discussed how they address LGBT-related issues. The gay-lesbian marriage advocate group Show Me No Hate talked about the three bus trips they have organized to Iowa City where dozens of lesbian and gay couples have been legally married. Another trip is planned for August. Missouri Health Care for all addressed how the new health bill impacts LGBT people.

With this year's Pride theme being Living Green Better Together, Pride President Tyler Hill reviewed the group's three-year plan to become more green. Additional information and hands on presentations were provided by St. Louis Earth Day and the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store.

Philip Deitch is a writer in St. Louis. 

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