ALTON - The second annual Alton Pride festival on Sept. 9 was a busy day of vendors, performances and celebrations for the local LGBTQ+ community.
Alton Pride is an organization that provides resources to LGBTQ+ people in the Riverbend area. This year marked the second Pride festival, where people could enjoy food trucks and live music from noon to 9:30 p.m. in downtown Alton.
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“For me, it’s a way of getting in touch with fellow LGBTQIA people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to the big festivals over in the city,” Alton Pride President Nicci Kincer said. “It’s more grassroots. It’s smaller, it’s more personal. More family-friendly.”
In addition to craft vendors and food trucks, attendees could enjoy performances by area bands Porch Cafe, Mz Goldie, Piasa Canyon and Bullseye Womprats. The event was emceed by drag queens Dieta Pepsi and Chasity Valentino, and a drag show from 6–7 p.m. kicked off the evening.
From noon to 4 p.m., Alton Pride partnered with Partners for Pets Humane Society to sponsor an adoption event. Younger visitors could also enjoy a Youth Zone until 6 p.m., complete with crafts and Me 2 You Game Truck and Bunker.
But while it was a fun day, there was a deeper meaning behind the celebrations. T Bagley, owner of Sweet T's Dye Designs, noted how the festival represents Alton’s growth over the years. Bagley also spoke about the importance of Pride events, especially as a parent to a young son.
“For us to be able to bring him out and see families that are like ours, it’s a really big deal,” Bagley said. “It’s super exciting to be at Pride, especially growing up here. I came out when I was super young. I was 14. It’s really great to see all the growth in the area since then…To see all the growth and be a part of that, too, it really means a lot.”
Many vendors sold clothing, jewelry and other Pride-themed items, but a few informational booths were also present. The School of Pharmacy at Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville had a table where visitors could spin a wheel for a prize and also learn about gender-affirming healthcare and preventative HIV medications.
“It's just another opportunity for our students to get out here and share their love, and also we’ve got information to share with the community about PrEP and PEP and gender-affirming treatments. We want people to think of pharmacists as a resource for all things, including things that are sometimes not so easy to talk about,” said School of Pharmacy professor Dr. Kelly Gable. “We’re all about our community and being advocates for our community, so we’re just really thrilled to be here.”
While final numbers are not in yet, the Alton Pride organization predicted that this year’s attendance would beat last year’s. The organization hopes to continue their tradition of an annual Pride and also expand their advocacy work in the community. For more information on the Alton Pride organization, including how to stay up-to-date with them, read this article on RiverBender.com.
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