The three-day, sixth annual St. Cloud Pride Celebration was an opportunity for the LGBTQ community in the to come together and celebrate who they are, while educating about heterosexism and homophobia in the area.
One of the opportunities for engaging the community in a dialogue about LGBTQ issues was the Pride in the Park event at Lake George on Saturday afternoon. A wide variety of local area establishments set up booths to interact about various topics with those in attendance.
Establishments represented ranged from businesses, non-profits, churches to artists. There were also several food vendors, a beer garden, which was new this year, and live music on the bandstand put on by Collective Unconscious.
Tyler Borresch, an SCSU alumnus who attended the event this year for the second time, was also surprised by the amount of families he saw at the event.
“There are a lot of people here I didn’t expect,” Borresch said. “There are people of all ages and a lot of people who may not be active in the LGBT community, but are supporters of it.”
Emily Hennes, an SCSU grad student, said the demographic at Pride in the Park seemed different than it was at Twin Cities Pride.
“The crowd at Twin Cities Pride is usually young adults; not as many families or kids getting involved as [Pride in the Park],” Hennes said. This was her first time attending St. Cloud Pride.
The different groups of people coming together created an opportunity for community members to discuss many different LGBTQ-related issues.
Kathy and Wanda Horner-Carlson, who were representing Unity Spiritual Center in Sartell for the fourth time, said they’ve noticed a steady increase in attendance since they first began.
Kathy said Pride in the Park was a great opportunity for the community to come together and have conversations about LGBTQ issues.
“It’s been a good opportunity for conversation,” Kathy said. “Today I had an interesting conversation with someone from an evangelical church about how LGBT kids in junior high are at such a high risk for being bullied.”
On Saturday evening, Pride festivities moved to the River’s Edge Convention Center for a drag show.
Before the show began, the dancing bug seemed to be spreading and people were starting to dance in or around their chairs.
The show started with emcee Bonnie the Barfly, whose antics loosened up the crowd and had them roaring with laughter. Bonnie’s comedy skit was followed by Tawnya Tootsieroll, the first drag performer of the night.
Each performer seemed to captivate the crowd with a combination of stunning outfits–some were handmade by the performers–impressive dance moves and a contagious energy. Audience members showed their appreciation of the performers by giving them money during the performances.
Sam Gilbert, a sociology student at SCSU, attended the show and explained that the cash giving at drag shows symbolizes something beyond just tipping a good performance.
“It’s us showing our gratitude for someone who’s breaking away from the hetero-normative world,” Gilbert explained. Gilbert also explained how this reason behind tipping the performer stands in stark contrast to other dancer-audience relationships in which the dancer is tipped, namely in exotic dancing.
“In a regular strip club, a male is sort of showing his power over a woman by giving her money and objectifying her for his own personal sexual satisfaction,” Gilbert said. “[Drag] is a queer way of breaking away from the male/female roles and creating our own gender roles and our own way of doing relationships.”
There was definitely no shortage of showing appreciation and pride in alternative roles at the drag show, as the crowd “made it rain” on performers throughout the night.
Pride weekend ended with a Sunday brunch at D.B. Searle’s, but there was yet another drag performance Sunday evening at the Red Carpet.
There are regular drag shows at the Red Carpet on the first and third Sundays of every month. But this one was special as the regular performers, which comprise the group Fusion Cabaret, were preceded by a group of SCSU students who are newer to doing drag performances.
Some of these performers are a part of Alliance or Outloud!, two organizations on campus representing the LGBTQ community and allies.
It was a first-time experience for one of the performers, who goes by the drag name Samantha Willin. She said that while nerve-racking, it was a liberating experience.
“I was really nervous, but felt more open as the performance went along,” Willin explained. “I felt a change come over me. It was really fun and I will keep doing it.”
She explained that she has always danced, and plans on performing in the upcoming drag show in the Atwood ballroom on Nov. 6.