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East Central Minnesota Pride, also called Pine City Pride, has been going strong for 10 years, bringing LGBT visibility to the east central part of the state. The pride festival has endured despite protests from conservative Christians.

This year’s festival themed “A Decade of Change” will be emceed by Edward Moody of WCCO. Former Vikings player Esera Tuaolo will be perfoming along with bluegrass sensation Hey Lonesome.

Nathan Johnson, who’s been involved in the pride festival for years, noted the growth of the event in a piece for the Twin Cities Daily Planet:

“Sunday, June 1, Voyageur Park in Pine City, Minn. will again be the setting to one of the few rural LGBT pride celebrations in the world. It is called ‘East Central Minnesota Pride’ and it has shown as much resiliency and staying power in this park over the 10 years as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people of this region of the State have shown… The need for the event has been evident in the event’s growth, from record attendance numbers to a record number of vendors, sponsors and supporters. This year’s event is expected to be the biggest yet with the tenth anniversary celebration. A sign of progress, for the first time in a decade, the Pine City mayor will give the official welcome to attendees.”

Though waning in recent years, conservative Christians have targeted the event in the past.

In 2007, the event’s 3rd year, Pine City resident Patrice DeGray decried the “appalling boldness and brazenness of this well-organized, radical fringe of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. “Does the Pine City community truly want to be known as the ‘smallest city in the world with a gay pride event?” she wrote in a letter to the local paper. Conservative Christians held their own picnic in protest.

In 2009, I attended one of those protests:

Only four blocks away in Robinson Park, a “pro-family picnic” was being held in response to Pine City Pride. “The GLBT picnic is being brought in by groups from around the state. If you go to their Facebook group, you can find people asking to be bused in from Minneapolis,” said Abe Mach, pro-family picnic organizer and director of the Pine City Republicans. “These aren’t the values of our community, and we want to make that clear. We do not want to this to become the defining event of our city.” Mach said on a Facebook page for the event that he sees the LGBT picnic as an assault on Pine City families. “The attack on traditional family values is coming from radical homosexuals desiring to introduce their lifestyle to kids in order present an alternative to the natural heterosexual lifestyles they are born into,” he told critics. “We simply want to be able to protect our children and families from what we believe to be a negative influence.”

A year later, the opposition couldn’t even muster a protest rally. In 2010, TheColu.mn’s Keith Pederson wrote:

Instead of the anticipated demonstration from a small, conservative Christian contingent holding a picnic on the other side of town, attendees at the Pride picnic were treated to a much more passive-aggressive attack on our community. The anti-gay group elected to slip pages of paper under the windshield wipers of many cars at Voyageur Park. The signs simply read “Gay is not that way;” with awkward phrasing like that, it seems the protesters were in too much of a hurry to communicate effectively.

Through it all, hearts and minds are changing, showing the impact that public event like Pride can have, as I wrote in 2008:

This year’s picnic was a prime example. The brother of one of Pine City Pride’s organizers plays softball with the son of a woman who helped spearhead the anti-gay protest last year. The softball players showed up to show their support, including the son of last year’s “pro-family” protest organizer.

The East Central Minnesota Pride festival continues to grow. This year pulling in well-known Minnesotans such as Tuaolo and Moody, and even getting the Pine City mayor to open the festival.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”100″] Details
Date: Sunday, June 1 from noon to 5pm
Location: Voyageur Park
Admission: Free
For more information, visit Facebook [/sws_blue_box]

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