The 35th annual Grand Rapids Pride Festival is taking place around Calder Plaza on Saturday, June 17. The Grand Rapids Pride Center hosts this event yearly to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community with a day of performances, food and a huge line-up of vendors.
Stephanie Black, a co-chair for the GR Pride Center said that this year’s pride fest will be the biggest one yet.
“We actually expanded the festival this year… We extended it further to go all the way down to Pearl Street so we have another block of vendors,” said Black. “We’ll have about 150 vendors there. I think last year we had like 130 (which) was our biggest.”
With this new space, Black said that they’ve been able to add a new accommodation for those who often get overwhelmed at large events.
“We have space for our sensory area. Last year we did kind of a trial run on that, to create a space for people (to) decompress during the festival,” she said. “People can get overstimulated, so we’ll have a better sensory area this year.”
Black said that some of the space will also be devoted to a kids and family area.
Beyond the excitement for Pride Festival is a backdrop of anxiety for many queer-identifying people. The Human Rights Campaign announced on June 6 a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ Americans. This is due to the more than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills signed into law during this year so far. This vitriol has many people worried about attending such an event. However, Black feels confident in the security measures being taken.
“We have hired our own security company. We actually did use them last year as well. They’re called FOLA… They are LGBTQ owned out of West Michigan,” Black said. “We have their whole team for the entire day. We had them last year and we had no issues. We always get protesters every year and it never turns into anything violent or anything like that.”
Black clarified that while the Pride Festival does not use the Grand Rapids Police Department as security, they will be called in case of emergencies.