Springfield Pride paints downtown in rainbows for a day

A woman spreads her wings at the 2021 Springfield Pride Festival Saturday on City Hall Plaza. Several. Several hundred people turned out for the entertainment, festivities and to celebrate the LGBTQ community. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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A woman spreads her wings at the 2021 Springfield Pride Festival Saturday on City Hall Plaza. Several. Several hundred people turned out for the entertainment, festivities and to celebrate the LGBTQ community. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The colors of the rainbow weren’t in the sky but on the pavement of downtown Springfield on Saturday afternoon – on shirts, hats, leggings, socks, capes, flags and anywhere you looked down City Hall Plaza.

These colors signaled the return of the sixth annual Springfield Pride event, back a year after its cancelation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Music and live drag queen performances in flamboyant costumes rocked the area while organization and information booths and food vendors drew crowds eager to be back out in the summer weather for live events.

Seeing the people out enjoying themselves and the many organizations pleased event organizer Bradley Minerd, who is also vice president of Equality Springfield, a local LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit. He said the event has made strides since its debut in 2015.

“We’ve had more acceptance in the community,” he said. “We’ve been more visible and there have been more conversations than we’d had. For years we were in the closet and there were no equal rights and just wanted to be together. This is a celebration of us being here.”

Evidence of that was the increase of information booths, totaling 33, up from 21 in 2019. Minerd said another factor was the LGBTQ community offering solidarity with Black advocacy groups as well, with the Springfield chapter of the NAACP represented at the event for the first time.

Alija Cornelison has attended past Pride events and wanted to include preteen daughters Skylynne and Alora Hicks. Skylynne said she’d begged her mom to let them come this year.

“I want my girls to be open-minded and know the world is more than just straight people,” Cornelison said.

“People should be able to express who they are,” Skylynne added.

Even some of the youngest attendees joined in the spirit. Charlotte Kunkle, who starts kindergarten this fall, was decked out in a rainbow dress, sporting rainbow stickers on her face and a rainbow peace sign necklace.

She was there with family celebrating the life of her late uncle, who was transgender. The family set up a booth in his memory offering help to others dealing with lifestyle acceptance issues.

“Acceptance of any form of sexuality is important, to have someone there to say we’re here for you and that’s what my mom is doing here,” said Alyson Kunkle, Charlotte’s mom.

Mayor Warren Copeland presented a proclamation for the day, declaring Springfield a welcoming, safe, inclusive city for all its citizens.

“It’s incredible to see the progress this city has made,” said Amanda Sue, the entertainment co-host along with Shelby, both of whom are Springfield natives and drag performers.

Springfield Pride didn’t end at the Plaza. For the first time, it extended to a special after-party at Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company for the evening.

Minerd is looking forward to Springfield Pride growing in future years. He’d like to see City Hall Plaza filled with as many people as the annual Holiday in the City draws there with more vendors and participation.

His goal for 2022 is to have a Pride parade leading to the event and continue to advocate for the LGBTQ community.

“We’re here and not going anywhere and want to be part of this community,” Minerd said.

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