June is LGBTQ* Pride month, and this year, PrideFest returns to Fayetteville’s Festival Park on June 25. The all day event will feature music, vendors and a drag show along with other entertainment. There will also be a kids’ area with activities such as face painting and balloon animals.
Fayetteville PRIDE, a local LGBTQ* non profit organization, is hosting the event.
Katrinna Marsden, the president of Fayetteville PRIDE, is looking forward to the return of the event. With the COVID-19 pandemic, PrideFest 2020 was canceled, and 2021’s events were more scattered and smaller in nature in an effort to be safe while celebrating.
This year, however, Marsden expects a full crowd at Festival Park.
“Our first PrideFest in 2018 was at Lafayette Park, and 1500 people showed up. We knew we were outsized from that park from the first year,” she said. “In 2019, we had the festival in Festival Park, and had 5,000 people in attendance.
The event is the largest fundraiser on Fayetteville PRIDE’s calendar. The organization holds monthly support meetings for the community, has created a Youth Empowerment Group, and works with local charities. The vendor fees and sponsorships from PrideFest help fund the organization’s goals throughout the year.
“We aren’t just a festival, we are an organization that is year round and our mission is about embracing diversity and about being a support network,” Marsden said.
Marsden said the festival has hit their capacity for vendors, and that people have come forward to volunteer for the event in numbers they weren’t expecting.
“We were worried we wouldn’t have enough volunteers, but we have had over a hundred, and people have come up to ask day-of if they could volunteer. We’ve just had an outpouring of support for (the festival), and it makes it really worth it,” Marsden said.
PrideFest celebrates LGTBQ* acceptance, and Marsden said that can be a huge thing for an LGBTQ* person who may feel alone. She expressed most LGBTQ* people wonder how they will fit into “normal.” By having Pride events, meeting others in the LGBTQ* community, these people discover there is a whole community with similar experiences.
“It makes you feel like you have a place in the world. We still regularly get people who come up to us as at events, who have found out about us and express to us that they have felt alone. (It’s important) just knowing there are other people out there who support you,” Marsden said.
Marsden said it takes hours and hours to prepare for PrideFest, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But for Marsden and her fellow board members, the outpouring of support from the community makes the long days worth it.
“Every year we get to hear stories what it means to people, and I think that is the thing that makes it all worth it to us,” she said. “I can distinctly remember the very first PrideFest in 2018, standing there with the other board members crying because so many people were there and they kept telling us how much it meant.”
Marsden also expressed excitement to see parents supporting their LGBTQ* children at PrideFest.
“I did not come out for a long time. I didn't figure it out for along time. But looking back, I can see it in kindergarten and first grade, sixth grade. I can see all these things, I don’t know why I couldn’t figure it out,” she said.
“And then when you see 12 and 13 year olds at these festivals standing with their parents, wearing rainbow gear, it's really exciting.”
PrideFest will be held June 25 at Festival Park between noon and 6 p.m. The stage will host alternating musical and drag acts, with some Fayetteville favorites making appearances. For more information, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.fayettevillepride.org/.
Volunteers can register at https://forms.gle/SxAki7yahwUKbtHq9 . Volunteers can donate as little as two hours of time, and sign up as an individual, as a family or with a friend.