By Nick BeJeaux
For one day this weekend Baton Rouge will host Pride Fest 2015, the largest expression of community pride in the Red Stick area.
For the first time, Pride Fest will commence at the Baton Rouge River Center Exhibition Hall on Saturday, June 13. BR Pride Chairman Thomas Merrill says he is very excited about the new location, which will offer three times the space of The Belle of Baton Rouge.
“I was excited to hear that they used We’re Movin On Up [by Ja’net Dubois] in our promotional video because that really is true,” said Merrill. “This is an exciting time! We’re going to have three times the amount of space before, a record number of resource fair participants—about 75, and entertainment wedged in there as tight as it possibly can be.”
Eight performers will be entertaining at Pride Fest this year, including Princess Kutt, New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus, Krewe of Divas, Austin Babtist Women, and local Band Orphan Annie. Pride After Hours is new addition to Pridefest, and will feature more entertainers and, what else, a dance party—all for a low cover charge of $10.
Merrill says the highest estimate for last year’s Pride Fest attendance is 6000 people. With the larger space, Merrill expects attendance and participation to spike this year.
“Based on surveys and estimates we can see that every year attendance is on the up and up,” said Merrill. “If attendance tops like everything else has topped this year, the we might have anywhere from 7,000 to 7,500.”
Speaking of attendance, Merrill also said that Pride Fest celebrates not only the pride of the LGBT community but the pride for all citizens of Baton Rouge—age, race, religion, or economic status being no object.
“Pride Fest is a time for building community,” said Merrill. “The emphasis is on unity and community; that means that we’re not just for the LGBT community—though it is our time to celebrate—but it’s also about our families, friends and allies. It really is an event that has something for everyone, from your kids to your grandparents.”
Before Pride After Hours, Capital City Alliance, Louisiana Trans Advocates and Equality Louisiana, all sponsors of Pride Fest, will host the fourth annual Equality March from the River Center to the steps of the Capitol. Kayla Mulford, the President of CCA, helped organize the first march in 2011 and even today it’s an emotional experience for her.
“It’s a very touching event to see,” she said. “I actually became a volunteer to help organize the very first one four years ago. I remember that when we got to the steps and the rally there began, I just started to cry because I’d never seen people organize together and speak so freely about who they are and what they need and want in their lives.”
Mulford says that every year she sees more and more support for the March as it makes its way through downtown BR.
“Every year it becomes more touching for me as the crowds grow,” she said. “Last year there was full on chanting all the way to the Capitol. We were passing by people on the street, just out and about and not knowing what was going on, who saw the rainbow flags and heard they chanting—they started to cheer us on. It is things like that which really touches people and allows them to celebrate who they are in a state that doesn’t let them do that.”
For more information on Pride Fest 2015 events and services, visit www.brpride.org.