Whitewater Pride Festival makes history

University+of+Wisconsin-Whitewater+Marching+Band+performs+at+the+pride+rally+on+Saturday+Oct+23%2C+2021at+the+Cultural+Arts+Center+in+downtown+Whitewater.+%0A%0A

Lyric Trempe

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Marching Band performs at the pride rally on Saturday Oct 23, 2021at the Cultural Arts Center in downtown Whitewater.

Felicity Knabenabuer, Lifestyle Editor

History was made in Whitewater as the first ever pride festival was celebrated on Saturday, October 23 at the Central Arts Center in front of the birge fountain. This momentous event was the brainchild of students from the Whitewater High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), the University of Wisconsin0Whitewater’s PB Poorman Pride Center and IMPACT, the Unity Project, The Book Teller, Whitewater Unites Lives(WUL), First United Methodist Church and Studio 84. 

Camden Harlan co-advisor of gay straight alliance at Whitewater high school spent months planning this event with the help of collaborators all over the community.

“You know, our students and our community really need to know they are not alone. This event is not only going to empower them to be braver and love themselves even more but also to honestly save lives. Giving this space to feel welcomed is going to really make them feel like they are worth everything. That they are amazing. You can already feel the vibe in the air right now. Everyone is super excited and there is just an incredible amount of diversity here,” said Harlan.

The festival had an arrangement of dazzling performances and heart-warming speeches for spectators to watch. There were a few drag queens who came out to celebrate with Whitewater and show off their stupendous dance moves. The crowd went wild whenever they saw one of the queens emerge from the Central Arts Center doors and strut their stuff down the path that leads to the Birge Fountain. 

“Everyone here assisted with some different aspects of the event. They impacted a lot of the planning of getting students here and then also all of our sponsors specialized in different parts such as the snow cones. We all came together in different ways to create this. So far, the event is extremely successful. We definitely were not expecting this many people, but it was super amazing. I definitely think this will become an annual thing and I believe it will just get bigger every year,” said LGBTQ peer educator of UW-Whitewater campus, Alex Koon.

Along with the drag performances and speeches there was also a sing-along performance by Christine Hayes where she strummed on a guitar and sang the song, “Rainbow connections.” At various points during the pride rally volunteers from the UW-W Marching band would bust out their instruments and perform a march such as the “Warhawk Strut.” One of the most soothing events was when Felix Ramsey, who appeared on Season 10 of  American Idol, serenaded the crowd by singing songs such as Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” and others.

In between the performance the crowd would gather in small groups to discuss amongst themselves and eat some rainbow styled cookies as they waited. With easily a hundred or more community members traversing the area it was a sight to see as rainbows colored your vision from every angle.

“This is the first time Whitewater has had an event like this and it really is just a special day. This is important because queer people are everywhere, and representation is really important. I think about the young LGBTQ+ or questioning youth who maybe don’t get to see rainbow flags very often to then seeing this today could be a really a life changing event for them,” said community member Kim Simes. “We have so many LGBTQ+ youth and adults and families in the community. For us to be able to have a place and a day and time to celebrate who we are is truly a gift. We really just want to celebrate with everybody.”

Although this was the first pride rally ever to exist in Whitewater, it is sure not to be the last.  It is expected for many more to appear in the future, giving LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters a place to celebrate their pride for years to come.

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