KALAMAZOO- Pride month continued its parade through Michigan this past weekend with the Seventh Annual Kalamazoo Pride. West Michigan brought its love to the Zoo, a love for family and a love for acceptance, a pulse that could be felt throughout the small city with a big city feel.
Held downtown in Arcadia Creek, the festival generated vibrant color in the already scenic spot in Kalamazoo’s center. To get in, attendees walked across the Arcadia Bridge lined with rainbow balloons and were met with a large four-sided chalkboard with “What is love, What is family, What does Pride mean to you and What makes Kalamazoo so great?” quoted on the top. As the weekend progressed, the board got covered with answers to the questions, full of affirmations about loved ones and the inviting and welcoming atmosphere Kalamazoo embodies.
On Friday afternoon, a local drag competition kicked off the celebration followed by performers and the drag show awards. KPride took a rest for the twilight hours and was at it again for the whole afternoon Saturday, ending the event with an ABBA tribute band, chock-full of super troopers and dancing queens lasting until eleven.
KPride has record-breaking attendance Friday evening alone, and the Pride board reached its sponsorship goal of $60k ten days before Pride. This means that all the money that came in the door this weekend is profit to the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center (KGLRC), says Carol Anderson, KGLRC board president. There was 14 hours of entertainment and over 40 booths throughout the weekend.
Attendees took breaks from walking around talking to local vendors and LGBT groups and signing up for newsletters and local support groups by stepping into the Bell’s Brewery tent, quenching their thirst on some beers like Oberon or Sparkleberry — an ale designed specifically for KPride.
Jordan Horsefeathers was at KPride with his friends Christopher Terkos, Susan Terranella, Carl Brown and Justin Cook. Everyone except Cook has been coming to KPride for years, and they said they were all pleased with this year’s festival. They want the festival to run later and open earlier but understand that city ordinances and a limited number of evening performance slots make it difficult to extend the hours of Pride.
“Everyone is comfortable in being here and that is evident in how many people are here,” Horsefeather’s said. “And it is a wide array of people. It’s not just the LGBTQ community; it’s also our allies and we have a lot of families here, which is really good.”
Terranella is a small business owner of a downtown shop called Cakes Boutique, one of the few places in Kzoo that had pre-event tickets available for purchase. She has received discrimination for her open support of the LGBT community in the past, but Terranella believes that allies and LGBT members showing up in support will bring more acceptance throughout the Kalamazoo community at large.
“Having those allies, or if they aren’t allies, showing their support, which is sometimes a difficult kind of thing to do if you are a small business owner, will help with the bias shift,” Terranella said. “Like how do I teeter that and still make sure that I’m not offending my customer who might not be in support of the community, or do I really want those people as my supporters or not. Am I going to be hurt that badly if I offend them?”
“I think the biggest thing that needs to happen is we need to see our allies become advocates and one of the ways they can do that is by showing up,” Terkos, member of the KGLRC, pressed. “And it’s not just showing up for pride; it’s speaking up at work and speaking up here or when you see things that are unjust. That’s where we are going to see a big change in the shift.”
The group says this year’s KPride is much bigger than the last. Terkos even imagined that the turn out was something close to 15 thousand, Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center’s goal. The importance of small business representation was on the radar for these Pride members.
“I think the corporate support that we receive is really fantastic,” Terkos stated. “Quite specifically through Bell’s, PNC and Kellogg, they are very supportive of the LGBT community because they really understand the value of a fully engaged employee and a fully engaged community.”
Madison Kay has been to every KPride event since it started seven years ago. She was there with friends Deanna Earle, Jasmine Statzer and Melanie Mott. The group of girls likes how it continues to get bigger every year despite being in a conservative town. Kay says she has never been discriminated against since she came to Kalmazoo 15 years ago and likes that the city is open to everything.
“There’s so much more to do this year, more vendors, people, more prizes and people to see,” Kay laughed.
The girls planned on going to an after party, perhaps at Metro, the local gay bar or to Louie’s, another bar in town hosting a drag show. But for KPride next year, they’d like to see more in every area, but specifically a parade.
“I don’t think downtown is ready for that yet,” Earle said, rainbow make-up outlining her left eye. “It’s too conservative, still, Kalamazoo is. But the fact that they have embraced us, it’s incredible. And I love Kalamazoo and just the fact that we have this, it keeps getting bigger and bigger every year, and everyone is so accepting and loving and it’s fantastic.”
Among those that held a booth at KPride were Jon Hoadley, an openly gay man running for State Representative this summer, Mr. Friendly, The Western Michigan University LGBT Alumni group, Transcend, The Humane Society, TransMichigan, Equality Michigan, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and WMUK.