South Central Minnesota Pride’s 18th annual Mankato Pride fest took place last weekend which showcased Mankato’s LGBT pride and paid homage to Jessica Flatequal who passed away earlier this year.
The three-day event catered to those within Mankato’s LGBT community and allies which included a karaoke night, parade, a festival and a youth dance. In memory of Jessica Flatequal, the parade will now be known as Jessica Flatequal Pride Parade for future Pride fests to come.
The director of Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Sexuality and Gender Programs and the first director for the university’s LGBT Center, Flatequal was a pillar of the LGBT community who led SCMP for 15 years.
This year’s Pride fest was to celebrate Flatequal’s legacy and memory. The city of Mankato planted a tree Sunday in honor of Flatequal.
The first event of the three-day Pride fest was a karaoke night, known as Queeraoke, on Friday at the Loose Moose Saloon. The event started at 8 p.m. with attendees filling up half the saloon half an hour into the event.
Michelle Parsneau, the karaoke hostess for Queeraoke, manages Kato Karaoke and has been involved in hosting Queeraoke for at least six years.
“It’s wonderful, it’s really one of the highlights of my year because, to be able to see people enjoying themselves and celebrating who they are is something that is hugely important to me,” Parsneau said.
Parsneau herself was the first to start off the night of karaoke with “Show Off” from the musical The Drowsy Chaperone. The event went on until 1 a.m.
In attendance to the event was Jeny Kolstad, interim director for SCMP, and entertainer Gosh Alice Jones who went up on stage early into the event to speak about Pride fest.
Saturday’s parade started early in the morning with the lineup gathering at 10:30 a.m. and starting officially at 11:30 a.m.
The parade started at the intersection of Riverfront and Plum and continued north to Riverfront Park where the festival was held.
The Pride fest festival started right as the parade ended at 12 p.m. and went on until 5 p.m. There were more than two dozen vendors lined around Riverfront Park. From Planned Parenthood to the Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota the types of vendors were as diverse as Mankato’s LGBT community itself.
One of the many vendors included Stonewall DFL, the LGBTQ caucus for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Representing Stonewall DFL, Tessa, who goes by Alex by day, dressed as Lady Liberty.
Tessa greeted attendees and ushered them to a voting area where attendees could place sticks into buckets each with a different candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
“We’re here trying to figure out who people like, what they want to see as their next Democratic nominee for President,” Tessa said. “We also have voter registration forms and registration forms to join DFL and Stonewall.”
While there were vendors trying to get attendees to sign up for certain groups, there were also vendors simply there to make sure attendees knew they are loved no matter who they are.
This was the goal of the day for Eric with Free Mom Hugs whose mission is to educate families, churches and community leaders that the LGBT community is filled with people who deserve love and respect.
“We are here to pretty much embrace everyone,” Eric said.
While attendees were going around to different vendors and children enjoyed the many bouncy castles, those who wished to sit on the steps of the Vetter Stone Amphitheater and listen to bands Bee Baum Fields and Nate Boots.
Jeny Kolstad and other members of SCMP, including Flatequal’s wife, Maria, as well as Minnesota State Senator Scott Dibble went up on stage to talk about Jessica and what she meant to the community.
“Jessica loved queer people of all ages, races, nationalities and religions,” Kolstad said. “She loved that people trusted her with their coming out struggles and successes and she loved sharing her own experience when she thought it could make a difference.”
Kolstad went on about how Flatequal would refer to herself as a “professional lesbian” and was someone who inspired others to love and respect one another.
State Sen. Dibble spoke next as he spoke about the important in the fight for equality and freedom than being seen and showing pride of oneself.
“We’ve come so far in this state over the last number of years,” Sen. Dibble said. “I recall back during the marriage wars, the fight to defeat that awful amendment and then turn around and pass that amazing bill that allowed us to marry the person we love and form the families that are so important to us.”
Sen. Dipple is one of two openly gay politicians in the Minnesota Legislature. Sen. Dipple has been a long-time advocate for HIV-research and to putting a complete stop on conversion therapy in the country.
After all the speeches and band performances, a drag show performance with Gosh Alice Jones and other prominent drag queens with Mankato’s LGBT community took center stage.
There was no hour wasted during the day of celebration as after the festival was over an 18 and over dance commenced at 7 p.m. at The Veterans of Foreign Wars which lasted until 11 p.m.
While the dance party on Saturday night was 18 and older, LGBT youths were able to party and dance away Sunday with the Youth Pride Dance Party which took place at the Wow! Zone which Parsneau was the DJ for.
Header photo by Maria Ly | MSU Reporter.