Stark Pride Festival celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with music, food and fun
The stage and green space were empty, typical of a weekday afternoon.
But organizers of Canton’s first Pride festival are already planning a lively celebration Saturday for the LGBTQ+ community.
TJ Horwood, Jonathan Becker, Tracy Brewer and Natasha Gaj envisioned a scene of live music, food trucks, drag queens, vendors, exhibitors and children’s activities.
“We want it to be for everyone,” said Horwood, president and founder of the festival.
The foursome are part of a group of eight or nine volunteers who have been planning the first Stark Pride Festival for several months. Other volunteers and groups also support the festival, including Queer in Guangzhou, Visit Guangzhou and ArtsinStark.
The event also received support from businesses, several churches and elected officials, organizers noted.
“It’s really a grassroots effort,” Horwood said of the local festival, which runs from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and is held in conjunction with Pride Month, a national celebration of history and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community.
The event will be held rain or shine at Centennial Plaza on Market Avenue N between Third and Fourth Streets NW along Court Avenue. Nearby streets will be closed.
“There’s no gay agenda. It’s really just being allowed to love and live our dreams – it doesn’t get any more complicated than that.
Brewer, the festival’s marketing president, said she has made efforts to broaden understanding of the festival community through social media.
“My goal was to make people understand that we weren’t there just to put on a festival, but to be an integral part of the community,” she said.
“Everyone has been very positive,” Brewer said.
Becker’s guidance and support was especially helpful due to his past involvement in planning a similar event in Indiana before the artist moved to Canton.
“I think people… tend to be afraid of things they don’t understand or know about,” said Becker, the festival’s president. “And Pride is about creating understanding.”
The festival is also a celebration, he noted, “because the human experience is a universal thing.”
“The gay agenda doesn’t exist,” Becker explained. “It’s really just to be allowed to love and live our dreams – it’s not more complicated than that.”
Live music will include pop and alternative rock and hip-hop
Creating the festival required securing financial support and “creating infrastructure from the ground up,” Horwood said.
More than 40 companies, groups and individuals sponsor the event. Donations can be made online at www.starkpride.org.
Sponsors include the City of Canton, Canton Downtown Special Improvement District, Craig Covey LGBT & Diversity Pride Fund and Equitas Health.
Entertainment includes DreamStates at 3:30 p.m., which plays original songs and covers and performed at Akron Pride Festival last year; Angie Haze at 5:30 p.m., from the alt-pop-experimental genre; and Hey Monea, a pop rock band based in Stark County, at 7:30 p.m.
Entertainment also includes DJKrooze and hip-hop artist Ethan Soza.
The drag queens feature hosts Danyel Vasquez (daytime) and Kardi Redd Diamond (evening), with performances from Dakota Cox, Hershae Chocolate, Kaleigha Diamond and Rosie Quartz.
Dr. UR Awesome will entertain kids with bubble art
Children’s activities are from 3-6 p.m. near Third Street and Market Avenue N, including Dr. UR Awesome, a professional bubble artist, at 4 p.m., as well as the Stark Library Bookmobile, face painting, and a bouncy house.
Festival attendees with booths include artisans, florists, health organizations, community groups, advocacy organizations, businesses and churches, Stark Pride organizers said.
Mama Bears will be represented; the group supports, educates and empowers families with LGBTQ members.
“We’re giving mom free hugs,” Brewer said. “Everyone is welcome to come and get a hug from us mothers, because not everyone comes from a family that has families that are assertive and accepting, and we have to give them that support. “
Jerzee Cafe will handle all alcohol sales on the festival grounds in the square. DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) cups from other downtown bars and restaurants will be allowed.
Also planned are speakers, educational activities and artists.
Free HIV testing will be available from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Canton City Public Health, 420 Market Ave. NOT.
Bernabei Township Mayor will help open Stark Pride Festival
The festival is scheduled to open at 3 p.m. with a ceremony featuring veteran gay activist and Jackson Township resident Craig Covey, who founded Pride celebrations in Ohio and Michigan.
The mayor of the canton Thomas Bernabei will offer a reception at the request of the organizers.
“This is a premier event intended to bring together the LGBTQ+ community of Stark County and surrounding areas and celebrate their diversity, as well as educate, entertain and welcome people from all walks of life.” he declares.
Rae’s on Court is hosting the ‘Drag Brunch Pride Kickoff Party’
Rae’s on Court is hosting the “Drag Brunch Pride Kickoff Party” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the back alley of Court Avenue NW near Centennial Plaza. Rae’s is at 218 Court Ave. NW.
Rae’s on Court hosts brunch with Samantha’s Downtown Restaurant. Drag queen entertainment is also part of the brunch, said Jamal Gomez, who manages both Samantha’s Downtown and Rae’s on Court.
“We’re talking about something upscale and luxury,” Gomez said of the buffet. “Three types of meat, eggs and potatoes. Anything you can think of. Fresh fruit and desserts.”
For more information on tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/pride-kickoff-drag-brunch-party-tickets-338098831707?aff=ebdssbdestsearch.
Twenty flavors of mimosa will be featured, along with beers and drink specials, he said.
“It’s an event for all ages,” Gomez said of the brunch. “Anyone can come, it’s kid-friendly.”
Gomez said the entire festival is both a celebration and an important awareness effort for the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s good to be yourself,” he said. “It’s okay to be loud and proud.”
After parties will be held at The Auricle nightclub and WERC
After parties are planned at The Auricle, 201 Cleveland Ave. NW, and at WERC Nightclub, 304 Cherry Ave. NOT.
“Whether 100 people show up or 100,000 show up (at the festival), I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” said Josh Brewer, owner of The Auricle. “And we’re proud to be an ally of the community.”
Covey guided the festival committee, drawing on his experience as a co-founder of the gay rights group Stonewall, which organized the first Gay Pride Parade in Columbus in 1982. He later was hired as executive director of a Michigan gay rights group, which held parades and marches in Detroit.
“I think our event is going to take off quickly and grow quickly.”
What’s most important is that Canton’s first large-scale Pride event is successful, inclusive and fun, Covey said.
“I acted as a cheerleader and said it was time for Stark County to join communities around the world that celebrate and recognize LGBT pride,” he said.
“Although acceptance across the country is strong, Canton and surrounding areas were a bit late for the game,” the Stark County native said in an email. “We are a culturally very conservative community, and we had to fight against inertia and fear of something new.
“But strong leadership has emerged quickly, and the support from many sectors across Stark County has been overwhelming. While in the past such events have grown slowly, I believe our event will take off quickly and grow. rapidly.”
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP
If you are going to
What: Inaugural Stark Pride Festival
Where: Centennial Plaza in downtown Canton on Market Avenue N between Third and Fourth Streets NW along Court Avenue.
When: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday
What: Live music including Hey Monea, Angie Haze, DreamStates and Ethan Soza. Entertainment also features drag queens, including Kardi Redd Diamond, as well as Dr. UR Awesome, a bubble artist. Other attractions include vendors, exhibitors and food trucks. Free HIV testing will be provided from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Guangzhou City Public Health.
Cost: FREE ENTRANCE