Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

How Minnesota has led the way for rural community pride events despite pushback

A stage with a band at East Central Pride
Pine City recently celebrate the 19th year of East Central Pride.
Courtesy of Aaron Bombard

Many rural pride events in Minnesota have at some point faced pushback, or even threats. Over the weekend Cook County Pride in Grand Marais received a bomb threat.

Meanwhile, Itasca Pride in Grand Rapids is also facing pushback as they get ready for their first ever celebration this weekend. But despite that, rural pride events are still successful in Minnesota.

East Central Pride in Pine City, claims to be the first rural pride in the country, and celebrated with its 19th annual event at the beginning of June.

For the first two years of East Central Pride, chair Aaron Bombard said they more or less flew under the radar. Then in the third year, the community realized it was here to stay and there was some opposition.

“They had a pro-family picnic where they had Christian music groups kind of trying to oppose us,” Bombard said. “I kind of laugh at the idea — as if LGBT pride is not pro-family.”

Liz Branum is a board member for Itasca Pride and said the goal is to make the event as safe as they possibly can. She says community members have gone to county board meetings accusing Itasca Pride of “doing things that we are not doing.”

“We’re encouraging people not to give them press and space and to just have fun with the event and not engage,” Branum said.

Bombard and Branum both said it is important for rural queer Minnesotans to feel like they belong and that there are other options besides living in the Twin Cities.

“It’s super important to be seen” Bombard said. “There is community out here and when they finally get that courage to have that conversation with their family, they know they have some sort of support within the community.”

Itasca Pride will be held in Grand Rapids on Sunday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Old Central School.

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