Story by Ammie Bryant, Editor
This spring, Stillwater will host its first-ever Pride festival. Sparked as an idea in July 2018, the Payne County Pride Association is a non-profit corporation consisting of members from throughout Payne County, representing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. The group’s mission is “to connect communities through promoting, advocating for, and celebrating persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bixexual, trans, or queer and their allies in a family-friendly way.”
“I was inspired after hearing so many (LGBTQ+) people say that they want to leave Oklahoma so that they can be themselves,” said Payne County Pride’s founder and director André Durham. “I think it’s important to send the message that the community they live in affirms them.”
Durham believes that building a bridge of open face-to-face communication is the key to alleviating fears on both sides. The morning and afternoon portions of the Payne County Pride festival have been designed to be family-friendly with a mission of outreach and education. “We want to help everyone leave the festival less afraid—from both sides—less afraid of queer folks and less afraid of being out.”
Durham welcomes those who may oppose or not understand the event to come and speak with him and others associated with Payne County Pride. Change happens through communication and people are more likely to become accepting when they feel heard.
Durham and the other thirteen members of the committee chose the name “Payne County Pride” as a way to reach out beyond Stillwater and OSU to the entire county, to make sure that everyone feels included. “Folks in all communities of Payne County want to feel loved and affirmed,” said Durham.
Additionally Payne County Pride hopes to bring participants together from all across northern Oklahoma, from Kingfisher to Pawhuska and Ponca City to Guthrie, to “Ignite the Flame” of Pride.
The Payne County Pride Festival will be held on April 6, 2019, consisting of three events throughout the day and into the evening: parade, picnic, and party. The parade will start at 10 a.m. at the intersection of 7th Street and Main Street, progressing down Main Street and then turning west on 9th Street and ending at Block 34 at the corner of 9th and Husband. Block 34 is where the picnic will be held during the afternoon with food trucks, live music, performances, and vendor booths. The Payne County Pride Association will also be hosting an educational booth for anyone with questions about queer issues. Both the parade and the picnic will be family-friendly. The evening will bring the party to Stonewall Tavern where there will be a drag show with local drag performers beginning at 8 p.m. At 9:30, local band Funk n Beers takes the stage to provide music until midnight. Plans are also in the works for an 18 and under after-party for junior and senior high school students.
Durham has big plans for the future of the event. Looking ahead five, ten, or even fifteen years into the future, he said, “My ultimate vision is for (Payne County Pride) to be the preeminent rural Pride festival in the U.S. and Canada.”
Learn more and stay informed of updates by visiting paynecountypride.org, as well as following the festival on social media @paynecopride.