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Through glitter and sweat, Bloomington Pridefest celebrates the LGBTQ+ community


As the weeklong heat wave hitting Bloomington finally broke, people turned out in full force to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community at Bloomington PRIDE’s tenth annual Pridefest. 

The event took place from 2 to 11 p.m. on August 26 all along Kirkwood Avenue. 

Kirkwood Avenue was decorated with pride flags and rainbow decorations with patrons having the opportunity to walk around and enjoy the various local vendors. 

Some booths sold pride related merchandise as well as artwork and goods made by those in the LGBTQ+ community, while others raised awareness about policies and healthcare surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. 

One such booth, Free Mom Hugs, handed out love and acceptance in the form of hugs and words of affirmation from volunteers. A volunteer with the organization, Jamie Pittman, saw it as a chance to give others the support she didn’t receive when she was younger. 

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“We’re showing teens, adults, anyone who needs it that they’re seen,” Pittman said. “And that they can still receive love from even strangers.”  

By the Graduate Hotel, the mainstage was consistently occupied with performances by the Quarryland Men’s Chorus, a story hour with drag queen Peacock the Phoenix and an engaging performance for children by local musician Kid Kazooey. 

The first of three drag performances started at 4 p.m. with the initial performance featuring Jizzelle Vontrell, Santana Sword, Pat Yo Weave and others. The evening show at 7 p.m. featured Oliver Closeoff, Mocha Debaute, Beelzebabe and more. 

The final show of the evening at 9 p.m. featured Jasmine Kennedie from RuPaul’s Drag Race and other performers with a set by DJ MADDØG taking place at 8 p.m. 

Closeoff, a producer of the all-trans and non-binary drag show, Beyond the Binary, said he found Pridefest to be a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in part due to its location in the state of Indiana. 

“Bloomington’s in the middle of f—king nowhere,” Closeoff said. “They have a very niche pride that kind of pushes the limits a lot of times and it’s true queer liberation.” 

In a time where almost 494 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures according the American Civil Liberties Union, Closeoff saw Pridefest as a chance to remind the community of its LGBTQ+ members and their humanity. 

“The narrative about queer people that is coming from non-queer people who aren’t in our spaces is very different from what we are,” Closeoff said. “There’s not going to be any liberation if we aren’t fighting for it. As much as it’s a party for us, it’s also a talking point for people that don’t want us around.” 

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community wore colorful outfits — with a healthy dose of glitter — as they posed for pictures, interacted with vendors and celebrated all the community had to offer. 

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Many families with children were present at Pridefest, including Andrew Tibbs and his family who have been coming down from Martinsville for four years to enjoy the festivities. 

Tibbs recalled his first experience at Pridefest as an eye-opening one when he saw people being their most authentic self and receiving nothing but love and support as a result. 

“People were able to dress how they wanted, act how they wanted, do what they wanted and be supported,” Tibbs said. “Everyone was so happy.”  

He said he wanted to show his kids an environment that was truly accepting of everyone.  

“The next generation, our kids, we’re influencing the ideas and feelings they have and we want to expose them to a group of people where it’s all about love,” Tibbs said. “Then as they grow up, they’ll hold onto it and appreciate others.” 

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