The entrance to the Columbia Heights Pride Festival at Sullivan Lake Park was lined with women on both sides of the sidewalk, holding their arms out for anyone who might accept a hug. The members of the Minnesota chapter of Free Mom Hugs set a welcoming tone for the July 13 celebration of and for the Heights LGBTQA community.
Sponsored by HeightsNEXT, the event featured drag storytelling and other entertainment, free ice cream provided by Community United Methodist Church, vendors and informational booths, many with a LGBTQA connection. For kids, there was a bouncy house, arts and crafts, and face painting.
Quatrefoil Library, an organization on Lake Street in Minneapolis that collects and archives LGBTQA materials, had a table with books for sale; the Columbia Heights Library had a display of their own similar materials. Queer Grace, a queer-run Christian community that holds services at Grace Lutheran Church in Northeast Minneapolis, also had a table.
Supportive service organizations also staffed booths that spoke to some of the challenges of being queer. Those included the Annex Teen Clinic, the Greater Minnesota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Free Mom Hugs.
At the HeightsNEXT booth, on an easel for people to sign, sat a citizens’ proclamation instead of the mayoral proclamation the organization had hoped Mayor Donna Schmitt would issue at the City Council meeting earlier that week. Her refusal on the grounds that the proclamation would not be within city guidelines, and the media coverage that followed, wound up drawing guests from all over the metro and beyond.
“We heard about the proclamation and came to show support,” said Chris Krueger, who, along with Robert Wagner and Dara Pech, came up from Rochester for the event.
“This week has been phenomenal as businesses and individuals have stepped up to say ‘you matter, you matter to this community.’ It has been really amazing to see the community come together,” said Amáda Márquez Simula, board chair of HeightsNEXT and the emcee for the event. “The festival is important because everyone needs to be welcomed in the community, to know they belong and they’re valued, surrounded by people who accept you,” she said.
“I love the [citizens’] proclamation and am proud of our community,” said Heights Council Member Connie Buesgens, who also said that she was “very sad” that the mayor didn’t sign it and that she had urged her to do so the day before the meeting.
Another elected official attending was state Representative Mary Kunesh-Podein, who said that she was disappointed about the mayor’s decision. “The request was the epitome of what a proclamation is,” Kunesh-Podein said.
There was little apparent dissent at the event itself, except for one protester who has been seen at other Pride events, who stood with a tall sign talking about sin and God and was not willing to give his name. Members of Free Mom Hugs and other attendees milled around him, hugging each other, chatting, and not engaging with him.
Additional coverage of Heights Pride can be found here.
Below: The Heights Pride celebration was family-friendly with activities for the kids. Right: Alexis Moriarty read the display of the citizens’ proclamation. (Photos by Karen Kraco)