Pride Fest in Decatur, Illinois June 2018

In June of 2018, my friend pointed out to me that it was LGBTQ+ Pride Month. I believe we all deserve to love who we love, and many others in Decatur share this perspective. It was often hard to see that we have such a diverse crowd of people here in Decatur. It's been, for some time, seen as a harsh and conservative town, with a too many problems.

Doubting that our town really was so hateful, I started planning our first ever Pride Fest. There had been smaller gatherings in the past, mostly involving small groups and people who know people. I thought it was time to make a public display - to show Decatur citizens that we are more than this dark image, to show Decatur we have a diverse crowd of gay, transgender, and other LGBTQ+ folks, as well as an astonishing number of allies.

It a very short 19 days, I shared the event on Facebook, got supplies together, recruited a drag queen, Astrid Luxe Prater, to organize the drag show, and invited vendors. It all cost roughly $600 and was paid in large part by vendor fees and from my own pocket. We had about 250 people come and enjoy Pride Fest, even with the blisteringly hot weather. We had one burrito truck, a kids painting booth, and a few other small vendors.

It was stressful planning in such a short time - a mistake I won't make a gain. But I was new to this world of community organizing and just trying to do what I thought was best. After Pride Fest, I got together with active members of the LGBTQ+ Community and formed a new organization, Decatur Pride, to take on the annual Pride Fest Planning. I continued to lead this organization until April of 2019 after forming it in October 2018.

There is a great crew still involved in Decatur Pride. Stepping away was a disappointment, but it was growing faster than I could manage it, and I had too much else going on in my life where I was the crucial piece. I look forward to 2019 Pride Fest, coming in October, as well as years of more to come.