Delaware’s Pride Festival has grown a lot in the last quarter of a century. This year’s 26th annual event hopes to build on that success this Saturday. Since its debut in Wilmington the festival has expanded and moved south to outside Legislative Hall in Dover.
Last year’s event drew more than 1,500 people, a number Delaware Pride President Jennifer Kutney-Soper hopes to surpass this year.
“It started up in Wilmington with a very small group of people and has morphed into one of the largest festivals that we have for the queer community here in Delaware,” she said. “The goal is to create a safe space for people to be authentically themselves and within the community.”
The event “gives us the ability to show the world that despite the prejudices that we face every day, that we are proud to be ourselves and that we do exist and we do have the right to exist,” she said. “We do have the right to take up space and we have the right to be here and we’re going to be here whether they like it or not.”
In addition to food and fun, other other organizations like the YMCA, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Sussex Pride, and CAMP Rehoboth will be at the festival to show their support and offer a flood of resources.
Kutney-Soper said support from those groups is valuable in showing there are safe places for the LGBTQ community to get help, after Pride is over.
“It shows us that we are accepted in spaces that aren’t quite so overt,” she said. “So when you walk into CAMP Rehoboth, when you talk to Sussex Pride, you know that you are accepted there because they are organizations formed for and by the queer community.”
Advocacy is top priority for CAMP Rehoboth, a nonprofit community organization working to create an inclusive environment for all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth Beach and beyond.
“CAMP Rehoboth has been involved in various different efforts with advocacy,” said Matty Brown from CAMP Rehoboth. “We put out a statement on all the growing anti-drag legislation nationally. Drag is not a crime. A threat to that in another state is a threat to it in Delaware as well, because that sentiment can grow. So it’s just important that we show out and we show solidarity with LGBTQ artists and drag queens.”
This weekend’s festival will include vendors, a children’s play area, and food trucks.
The kids zone will include craft activities, encounters with princess performers, and a drag queen reading. The kid’s interaction is important for the event since it helps to ensure that kids feel secure in their own skin and like they belong, Kutney-Soper said.
“Some queens … have graciously offered to read books, just read some books to the kids for a little bit and give them space to exist in a way that they know that they’re accepted, even if, you know, their family looks different or if they feel like they’re different than than their peers,” she said.
All Delawareans are welcome to the event, and leaders hope to see allies of the queer community in support.
“We need our allies to see us be authentic, because we need our allies to be able to stand up to those individuals who aren’t happy that we’re here because they already will not listen to us,” she said. “The best allies are able to leverage that privilege to keep queer individuals from experiencing more harm.”
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