By Allison Weatherford
Grey clouds rolled over the sky, dousing the earth below with some much needed rain. At Highland Park, revelers huddled under the available shelter waiting for the storm to pass. The park hosted Natchitoches’s first LGBTQ+ pride festival on June 28. LGBTQ+ folk and friends gathered to celebrate. Braving puddles with bare feet, they painted one another in pride colors, played a game of kickball, and frolicked in a bounce castle overflowing with soap bubbles.
For some, Pride Fest 2K19 was their first LGBTQ+ pride event. Alyssa and Danielle, two local teenagers, explored the festivities together. “It feels like [Natchitoches] is actually trying to do something, trying to support us,” Alyssa commented.
“It’s like, a good movement,” Danielle agreed.
Sarah Lord, who will start as a freshman at NSU this fall, said “I’m gay, and I’m nervous about coming to a smaller southern town as a freshman, but I think it’s really neat that they’re having an event and I feel safer coming here knowing that there is some support.”
Scott Lumry waited through the intermittent rain to be joined by his friends at Pride Fest 2K19. “I’ve been out for 25 years,” he said. “I’m 60, so that would make me 35 when I came out. I helped push for the legalization of gay marriage in this city. I’m happy to be here. I’m ecstatic, knowing this is here for younger people.”
While Pride Fest 2K19 was focused on members of the LGBTQ+ community, many allies were on the scene. Kathy Mitchell and her husband Melton drove from Anacoco to participate in Pride Fest 2K19 by giving free mom and free dad hugs. Their son came out to them 3 years ago.
“Rejecting our child was never even considered,” Kathy shared. “We cried. My big ol’ husband cried, and in his next breath he said ‘I need to hold my son’. It’s a tough journey in this environment, for the kids and for the parents.”
Liz Leblanc, who has attended many pride festivals, came to Pride Fest 2K19 in support of her nephew. She exclaimed, “We’re so grateful that he’s in a rural area and he now has a community of people to talk to, to ask questions, and he hasn’t had that before. I am so excited to be here! The first ever Natchitoches Pride! This is fantastic. We are a part of history. We are a part of progress. Our small little world is opening up. I’m just thrilled!”
In the dug-out, Krissy Youngblood tended barbecues loaded with food that glistened in handsome, amber hues. Her daughter, Tia Youngblood, played part in coordinating the Pride Fest 2K19. Krissy’s smile radiated joy as she spoke of her daughter.
“I raised her to be herself,” she said. “She is who she is, and nothing can change that. I love her. I’m just as worried about girls as I am boys, though! Everyone’s equal to me.”
Despite the disagreeable weather everyone came together and danced in the rain to celebrate love. The inaugural Pride Fest 2K19 was a success, and the revelers hope there will be more to come.