PrideFest takes lighter tack

There's more to celebrate this year, organizers say

By Dawn Schuett

PrideFest Weekend -- a celebration of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Rochester and its supporters -- is expected to have people laughing, dancing and praying Friday through Sunday.

Among events for the weekend are music by members of a gay men's chorus, a performance by a comedian and worship services at two churches.


Kate Bender, co-chairwoman of the PrideFest Committee, said the tone of PrideFest in previous years had been a little somber, with guest speakers addressing serious issues. This year, the lineup includes more entertainment to lighten the mood, Bender said.

"I think we have a lot to be proud of, considering everything that's been going on," Bender said, referring to three recent national milestones for gay rights. In recent weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law banning sodomy; Wal-Mart expanded its anti-discrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian employees; and the prime minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, introduced legislation in that country to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The annual PrideFest celebration, which began in 1998, attracts people from across Minnesota and nearby states. Although similar festivals occur in the Twin Cities, Winona and La Crosse, Wis., residents from those communities also travel to Rochester for PrideFest, Bender said.

"This event is for anybody and everybody," she said.

Activities begin Friday with "DRAGagonza," a drag show at 8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn ballroom, 1625 S. Broadway. Admission is $10.

On Saturday, the PrideFest celebration will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Central Park, near Second Street Northwest and First Avenue Northwest. A proclamation from the mayor's office will be read, declaring it "Rochester PrideFest Weekend." This will be followed by performances by Mitchell J. &; the Tartlets, OUTLoud from the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, Rochester Girls and comedian Matthew Feeney.

A happy-hour social will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Comfort Inn ballroom, followed by the Pride Dance from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the ballroom. Admission for the dance is $7, or $6 with a PrideFest button or T-shirt.

Two PrideFest worship services will be Sunday. The first will be at 9:30 a.m. at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1727 Walden Lane S.W. The other will be at 5:30 p.m. at Healing Spirit Metropolitan Community Church, which meets at the Sun Center at Assisi Heights.


More information about PrideFest Weekend is available at

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