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Bloomington Pridefest brings the rainbow after morning rain


Benjamin Ale-Ebrahim, a volunteer with Spencer Pride, holds up pride flags Saturday at the 2018 Bloomington Pridefest on East Kirkwood Avenue.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

After a sprinkle of rain fell over Bloomington, rainbow flags and signs lined the wet streets at the fifth annual Bloomington Pridefest Saturday afternoon, as people gathered to celebrate and raise awareness for the LGBT community. 

The heat and humidity seemed not to deter anyone from attending the event, as people of all ages — many dressed up with rainbow colored items — flocked to the festival on Kirkwood Avenue to participate in the events offered by Bloomington PRIDE.

The two live performance stages at the festival brought free entertainment, such as concerts and drag shows. The entertainment could be seen at the Upland Stage in the CVS parking lot and the Boston Scientific Stage on Kirkwood Avenue and Lincoln Street.

The festival grounds extended from Grant Street all the way to Walnut Street, lined with more than 90 nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, food vendors, and businesses selling T-shirts and handicrafts. 

Amid the rush of students and Bloomington residents, Susan Bangalder, a volunteer at Pridefest, stood with a sign reading “Free Hugs” in her hands. Bangalder said that as straight people, she and a few other people were trying to send the message that there’s love and appreciation for people of all orientations and ways of being.

“It means you can live out loud,” Bangalder said. “It means there’re support for people to be who they are, be their genuine selves without fear of reprisal or fear of harm or teasing. It means there’s acceptance.”

Autumn Siney, a junior studying studio art, shared a hug with Bangalder. She said she thinks that free hugs are a very kind gesture.

“It just makes me happy to know that people are there to give affection,” Siney said.

Black Lives Matter Bloomington had a booth for the first year at Pridefest. Black Lives Matter court council member Jada Bee said they wanted to bring in donations for local organizations such as Middle Way House and Shalom Center and encourage people to engage more on the discussions surrounding Black Lives Matter. 

“Black people are not a monolith,” Bee said. “We are varying types and shapes and sizes, and that includes being queer and being out and positive.”

She said the organization wanted to support their queer and trans brothers and sisters, in particular people of color and the black folks who need a voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, along with their queer identity. 

Katina Tsarnas, a senior studying graphic design, said she thinks that the Pridefest helps raise awareness of different topics in LGBT culture and teach people about issues in the LGBT community, such as bathroom laws for trans people. 

Tsarnas said she thinks it’s especially important for young kids to learn more about queer culture, especially because of protesters at the event. 

“There’s a Christian organization out here," Tsarnas said. "I think it's really important for people to know that not all Christians are against everyone in the community."

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