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Parade begins West Michigan's annual Pride festival

Visitors were welcomed by LGBTQ performers in a day of colorful acts.
Calder Plaza hosted West Michigan Pride Festival

Calder Plaza hosted West Michigan Pride Festival /Scott Trumbo

On June 14, downtown Grand Rapids celebrated the 26th annual West Michigan Pride. This event highlights the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in the West Michigan area. With thousands of visitors waiting at the entrance gates, event organizers were looking to beat last year's attendance record of 10,000.

At noon the parade returned this year as an opening to the day’s ensuing revelry. Starting at Fountain and Library Street, the parade spent an hour marching its way to Calder Plaza where the festival was officially kicked off, and would continue until 10 p.m. 

This is the first year that the parade is being held directly before the festival. By fusing both into one day it let visitors enjoy both important Pride events. 

“We have a huge drag show with 20 performers, we have people from the drag community coming from Detroit,”says Christina Wade, executive director of The Network. “Since we have a huge range of performers, we have everything from drag queens to 80’s rock bands… we have fun things for the whole family." 

Between drag performances, aerial acrobatics and community groups something was always going on. Pride had everything from a beer tent for the adults to arts and crafts for kids.

This is also the first year ArtPrize was at the festival. Amelea Pegman, the volunteer and community director, discusses why ArtPrize decided to join Pride.

“ArtPrize is a community event, that at its core is about inviting and introducing individuals to contemporary art. Social equity and justice are a key component of achieving our goal, and we are excited to be a part of Pride this year. We wouldn't be doing our job well if we weren't making sure that everyone knows they are welcome and that the LGTBQ population play an important part of this conversation. Today is so much fun, we couldn't be happier about taking part,” says Pegman.

Groups like Transgender Michigan, who provides the only transgender help line in Michigan, and Kent County Democrats offered educational pieces on what is happening with the local LGBTQ community. 

“It is a tedious process planning such a huge festival and parade, but it such an amazing feeling the day of,” says Wade,  who spent over eight months planning this event. The Network works year round to maintain their mission:

“To provide a central and inclusive community center offering resources, support, social opportunities, education, and referrals to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities regardless of ethnic background, race, religious affiliations, ability, social economic status, political affiliation and/or age.”

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