Pride in the Park June 3

Minnesota’s Small-Town Pride kicks off summer of pride with East Central Minnesota Pride held June 3 in Pine City.

For the eighth-straight year, Voyageur Park in Pine City will be the setting to East Central Minnesota Pride, a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) pride event to be held Sunday, June 3 from noon to 5 p.m. There will be music, food and – this year – an all-inclusive ‘rendezvous’ of friends and community.

The event began in 2005, aiming to give LGBT people, those questioning, and their friends, family and allies an opportunity to meet and build community in an isolated part of the state.

“The hard part is the distance in rural areas, to meet people… where and how?” said Don Quaintance, of Isanti, one of the event organizers. “The annual picnic allows us to gather together to celebrate how far we’ve come.”

“The endeavor promotes tolerance through a community dialogue about LGBT issues,” said Nathan Johnson of Pine City.

The band lineup this year returns Yasen Marie and Harley Wood and brings newcomers Chastity Brown and Nobody’s Weddin’.

There are several ways in which East Central Minnesota Pride has improved the quality of life in this part of the State, taking on the weighty task of building a more LGBT-friendly atmosphere in rural Minnesota – specifically, the area ranging Forest Lake to Moose Lake, and from Milaca to Siren.

“Equality means being equal,” explained Quaintance, a senior and veteran. “It is everyone being given a chance for the same thing. Hopefully, pride allows those folks who are still living in the closet to come out, stand up and be counted.”

Given the measure on the ballot this fall to redefine marriage to discriminate against same-sex couples, Quaintance feels this year’s event is especially important.

“We are family, have families, and deserve the same respect and equality as all other loving couples,” he said.

Summer of Pride Kickoff

More than ever in the event’s history, there is a collaboration to bring about East Central Minnesota Pride, one that involves East Central Minnesota Men’s Circle, East Central Minnesota Purple Circle, East Central Minnesota chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Rural Aids Action Network, Rainbow Health Initiative and Out-Front Minnesota. Several businesses throughout the region support and help sponsor the event as well.

The event was recognized at the Minnesota State Fair last year as an award-winner in the annual “Community Pride Showcase”. It was shared as a way the Pine City area is moving beyond current economic challenges with community and economic innovations.

Since Pine City’s pride has proven successful, other outstate cities such as Brainerd and Willmar have tried their hands at pride as well. The event has served as a model for other small-town gay prides elsewhere in the U.S.

A Pine City business owner, Dennis Burns, of DB Signs said, “I’m more than proud of the GLBT community in East Central Minnesota. They all work very hard every year to put together the Pine City event.”

‘A Rainbow Rendezvous’

This year’s event, themed “Equality Matters: A Rainbow Rendezvous,” pays homage to the French Voyageurs who traveled long distances centuries ago to gather at the wintering post just 1.5 miles upriver from the park.

Before the United States was a country, voyageurs trekked through the wild woods of the future Minnesota, trapping and trading, and blazing a trail that would be walked upon by subsequent generations. So important is the mark they left that Pine City has erected a 35-foot-tall carving along the picturesque Snake River’s north shore. The voyageur’s redwood shadow falls across the park that bears his name. On June 3, that shadow will touch men and women who honor the voyageur’s spirit in their own way.

About Pine City

Pine City was named “Outstanding Community” of 2009 by the Initiative Foundation and in 2010 and 2011, has been named a “Best Community in America” for music education by the NAMM Foundation. With its forests, river and lakes, the area appeals especially to outdoor enthusiasts. Water lovers will find activities on the Snake River and several lakes, including 1,536-acre Pokegama Lake and 938-acre Cross Lake.

The Snake River beckons to canoeists. Bring a canoe or use one that East Central Minnesota Pride has provided courtesy of Snake River Outfitters (www.snakeriveroutfittersmn.com). Paddle the 15-minutes it takes to arrive ‘back in time’—to 1804 – to the North West Company Fur Post, and watch for bald eagles, loons, bears and deer while paddling upriver.

The NW Co. Fur Post, a Minnesota Historical Society site, has activities planned throughout pride weekend, allowing folks to step out of the modern visitor’s center there into the world of 1804. More information can be found out at www.mnhs.org/places/sites/nwcfp.

The dock on the Snake River at Voyageur Park makes a good spot to cast your line for walleye, crappie and sunfish. Be sure to buy a fishing license at a sporting goods store or a bait shop in Pine City before you cast your line.

Pine City is the county seat of Pine County. Of the 87 counties in Minnesota, Pine County has the third-highest proportion of same-sex couples in the state behind just Hennepin and Ramsey Counties

“People are coming here from the Twin Cities area, primarily, because of the great quality of life,” said Johnson. “We are home to a health food store, gyms, a community theater and an arts center, not to mention the recreational aspects of the Snake River and nearby lakes. And, one can buy anything from hummus to sushi here.”

Other annual Pine City community events include Czech and Slovak Booya Festival Aug 19, and the Voyageur Fall Gathering at the North West Co. Fur Post on Sept. 15-16.

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