A rainbow flag hanging in the window and a yellow sign sitting above the door with the words “safe place” greets visitors as they walk into Pride Community Services Organization, also known as the Pride Center.
The center, open since 1996, serves the LGBTQ+ community in Central and Eastern Kentucky, and it’s the only pride center in Kentucky.
The Pride Center presents the Lexington Pride Festival, which marks its 10th year anniversary Saturday. To celebrate, there are many appearances and performances, including Paisley Fields, a queer country band from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ginger Minj from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Lexington native Helena Handbasket will emcee the event.
“This is the one day of the year that we can get where everybody who is not heterosexual can come out and feel appreciated, … knowing you are not alone and knowing you can be who you are,” festival chairman Paul Brown said. “We want to build community. Build people.”
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Sponsorship chairman Morgan Fry said local “support has been phenomenal.” He said he hopes people will understand that “we are here; we are part of the community. … We are families just like them.”
Proceeds from the festival help finance the Pride Center. The goal is to “keep the doors open,” Brown said. “Everybody can go and get their needs met.”
We want to build community. Build people.
Paul Brown, festival chairman
The three E’s — educate, enhance, and empower — embody the center’s purpose and goals, which are implemented through services and resources. Services include the support groups Gay/Straight Alliance for Youth and Seasoned Independent People. A few resources available through the center are a LGBTQ+ monthly magazine and a library.
Office manager Carmen Wampler-Collins said the center is vital for the community.
“It gives a centralized meeting space where people can come and be comfortable,” and it’s a place for people and groups to come and congregate for meetings or just hang out in a place where they can be themselves without fear of judgment, she said.
The center is as a “starting point” for many people, and it’s a safe place “when they do not know where else to turn,” Collins said. The festival is important because of what it stands for, but also because of the services and resources provided at the center because of it. In 2015, it was a celebration the day after the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
“It is sort of surreal,” Collins said, “seeing all the rainbows and people. … It has shown where we come. It has grown substantially.”
On Sunday, after the Pride Festival, there will be a Pride interfaith prayer service from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center.
The festival’s planning committee expects more than 25,000 people to attend. There are many labels in the LGBTQ+ community, but Brown said he wishes everyone would show up. “I do not care about the label. I just want people to come out and have a great time.”
The weather looks iffy this weekend, but Brown isn’t too concerned. “Pride can be bigger than the weather,” he said.
If you go
Lexington Pride Festival
What: A daylong event presented by the Pride Community Services Organization
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. June 24
Where: Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza, 120 N. Limestone
Where: 389 Waller Ave., Suite 100
Hours: 1-5 p.m.Tues- Fri, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sat.