Written by Maya Geving, Photos by Aiden Farrell

Lake George was immersed in all the colors of the rainbow on Saturday, Sept. 17 as the annual “Pride in the Park” event took place. Students, families, locals, and others flooded the park to celebrate pride. It was also an opportunity for local businesses to show their support. 

This year marks the 14th year of celebrating Pride in the Park. It has been going on since St. Cloud Pride was founded in 2009. The park was filled with a variety of booths, food trucks, opportunities to make art, and performances on the stage. 

According to the Chair of St. Cloud Pride Cody Klimek, “We chose Lake George due to the visibility. You can see it from the road and it’s fairly central. It’s also a beautiful park and it’s got a stage.” 

The stage at Lake George.

A Space to Build Connections

“Events like these build connections, people don’t know about services that are out here. You’ve got lots of different nonprofits or organizations that you can connect with. You can also make connections with the queer community here in St. Cloud which is great to see”, said Klimek.

Giving back to the LGBTQ+ community is a heartfelt cause for Klimek.

“I’m a part of the queer community so I enjoy giving back to the queer community and building it up. So it’s personally important to me to have this kind of event”, he said. 

He also mentioned how events like this help make LGBTQ+ people feel safe in St. Cloud.

“There aren’t a lot of queer spaces in St. Cloud. To have this event is one way to make these connections. And then it’s just a safe event. People feel safe and comfortable to hold hands with their partner and be themselves”, said Klimek. 

A Symbol of Acceptance in Central Minnesota

Harley Ritter (left), Staci Banks (middle), and Eden Kinard (right).

Eden Kinard, Staci Banks, and Harley Ritter were among the event-goers. It was all their first time at the Pride in the Park event. 

Kinard, who is from Georgia, said they loved how much acceptance there is here in Minnesota. 

“We don’t even have pride in Georgia”, they said. 

“It’s nice seeing the church booths here too. It’s not very common to see that represented in other places”, said Ritter. 

The group of three said they came to the event to support the pride community and see what was going on. 

“I like supporting people and going up to the booths and playing games”, said Banks. 

“My favorite part of being here is just the community altogether. It’s just a really open community”, said Ritter. 

St. Cloud State Representation at the Event

The SCSU LGBT Resource center booth at the event.

The LGBT resource center at St. Cloud State also held a booth at the event. The director of the center, Charlie Curtis, talked about what the LGBT resource center does on campus. 

“We do a mix of social programs, events for students, educational programs, and advocacy work on campus. We also put on social events such as Gaymer which is a weekly meetup for students to hang out and play games. On the educational side of things, we do documentary screenings, safe space training, and we do advocacy to try to improve the situation on campus for queer and trans students”, said Curtis. 

They also shed light on the importance of having an LGBT resource center on campus. 

“There are students who have never been able to have a safe space to be out until coming to college. So having a visible, active center like this is really helpful for these students to have a place to land. We really provide that initial base for people before they find more communities to be a part of.” 

According to Curtis, work to reduce discrimination is just as important as taking part in events like this. They encourage students who are interested to stop by the LGBT resource center. 

“You don’t need to come to a specific event, you can just stop by and say hello.” 

The LGBT resource center is located in Atwood Memorial Center room 142. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students can also email LGBT@stcloudstate.edu or contact @scsu.lgbtrc on Instagram to get involved. 

An important Event for the St. Cloud Community

Angie Truson (right) and Cameron Mulcahy (left).

Angie Truson and Cameron Mulcahy were also among the event-goers at Pride in the Park. 

“We originally came here to staff a booth. We are here with Unity Spirituals Center of Central Minnesota and I’m the director of that center. And then we just came to hang out this afternoon and check out all the businesses, nonprofits, and wonderful people here. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and build community”, said Truson. 

Truson first came to Pride in the Park at Lake George in 2012. There she realized how support from faith communities can elevate pride events. 

“I found my church here. It was one of only two churches at the time. And that’s where I connected with the church that I eventually started going to. It said a lot to me that the church was here at this event so many years ago at the time when the event was so new. It’s really exciting to see more faith communities being represented in the community now.”

For Mulcahy, community was also an important factor.

“Events like this are essential to growing our community and opening people’s eyes to other ways of life. I think it’s great to get out here and meet new people and just see what’s going on and what initiatives there are to help people. It’s great just to get that exposure”, he said. 

Truson chimed in about the importance of having pride events in St. Cloud.

“It’s really important for people to have a place where they can come and feel like they can be themselves and meet other people who it’s safe to be yourself around. To see so many people here businesses and attendees represented is really heartwarming. We have a big community here in central Minnesota even though I think there’s kinda a bad rap that we don’t. So I think this event kinda showcases it.”

Fun Activities That Help Educate

Truson and Mulcahy enjoyed all the creative and educational activities at the event.

“I love the opportunities to make something and engage in community art. The coloring station here where people have come up and put their own pieces into this larger collaborative piece of art is a great visual way to encapsulate what this event is all about”, said Truson.

“I really liked the puppy parade they had earlier and all the activities they had for kids”, said Mulcahy. 

They both mention how events like this are great for educating children about what pride stands for.

“It’s been a great opportunity to talk with the kids too about gender, acceptance, and inclusion. It’s fun and it opens that door to talk with kids about all that”, said Truson.

“The kids collected a lot of flags, so we got to talk to them about what each flag represents. The exposure that these events offer for kids at a young age is really important”, said Mulcahy. 

To learn more about Pride events in St. Cloud or get involved, you can check out stcpride.org or follow @stcloudpride on Instagram.