Home News Central Illinois Decatur Pride Fest a success despite opposition

Decatur Pride Fest a success despite opposition

Theresa performs during the Decatur Pride fest at the Fairview Park pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 17. Photo by Tom Wray

Decatur held its entry in the Pride calendar on Saturday, Sept. 17, without a hitch, despite online harassments.

Information tables, food trucks, drag shows and a welcoming crowd filled the Fairview Park pavilion. Hundreds of people came through the all-day festival.

The festival didn’t happen without some opposition. As has been happening to other Pride events that welcome families, far-right activists protested over kids being in the same space as drag queens. Decatur Pride vice-president Reed Sutman documented right-wing news coverage and social media comments about the event, with many calling for it to be stopped. It was passed on to the Decatur police and there was a larger police presence at the festival for security. However, except for a single person who placed herself in the middle of the festival to pray, there were no protesters.

There was one change to the schedule because of the online harassment. Organizers told the families who were participating in a youth drag contest and two of the three decided to withdraw. Organizers decided to cancel the contest. However, the rest of the schedule went smoothly.

Groups and individuals from across Central Illinois came to the festival and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Travis, Mellissa, Salem and friends, all from Decatur, were attending. For Travis and Melissa, it was their first Pride.

“I wanted to hang out with my family,” Travis said.

“And find support,” Melissa added.

They were happy that Decatur had a Pride of their own without having to travel. “It’s awesome,” Travis said. “It feels like your heart is going to explode. It’s so fun.”

They do plan on coming back next year, “if I can get a ride,” Melissa said, laughing.

Robert and Sarah Brice were manning a table for their church, First United Methodist of Decatur, with their toddler. It was their first Pride as well. The church had been invited by organizers to join festival.

“You can’t ask for better weather,” Robert said. “A great turnout. Just kind of a camaraderie.” And even without working at the table, they plan to return.

“We want [their son] to grow up and know how important it is to love everyone and being different is okay,” Sarah said. “So it is very important to us that he knows we are here to welcome everyone.”

“That’s what Christ was about, right?” Robert added. “Loving one another.”

Katie Eytechison of Decatur wore a fantail of rainbow balloons as she went through the festival. It wasn’t her first time at Pride.

“Our Presbyterian church has a booth and I have a kiddo that wanted to come to [drag queen] storytime and just being here to support our community,” she said. Eytechison said the festival so far had been “fantastic.”

Nikki and Amanda came from Mattoon with their kids.

“I’ve never been to a Pride before,” Nikki said. “Amanda’s been trying to get me to go and we have three kids who are here with us.” They enjoyed themselves and have plans to go to Metro East Pride in two weeks.

Along with the vendors, there was a drag queen story time, pet fashion show, performances and the Voice of Decatur Pride contest on Saturday night.