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G.I. Pride supporters march, gather for festival at Pioneer Park
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G.I. Pride supporters march, gather for festival at Pioneer Park

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A “United in Pride” festival at Grand Island’s Pioneer Park on Saturday brought together hundreds of local LGBTQ+ members and supporters for a march and daylong festival.

The march at 10 a.m. took supporters, reaching nearly two blocks, along Second Street to Sycamore Street, then to Hall County Courthouse and back to the park.

At the park were LGBTQ+ vendors and agencies.

“It’s to show the community that we’re here, and that we deserve equal rights,” said Chrissy Brooks, G.I. Pride event organizer. “And this is a celebration of black and brown, queer and trans women, who took off their heels and fought at the Stonewall riots 52 years ago, to bring about rights for LGBTQ persons.”

It was the second event for G.I. Pride.

A first event was held in 2019, but the 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic.

Visibility is important, not only nationally, but in Grand Island, as well, Brooks said.

“It’s a smaller community in Nebraska and Nebraska is kind of a hard state for queer people to live in,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t necessarily like that we’re here, but we want them to know that Nebraska is our home and we deserve the same rights that everyone does.”

The festival was emceed by Steven Mitchell, an openly gay pastor at United Congregational Church, who moved to Grand Island in 2018.

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“I was absolutely shocked to see how closeted the LGBT community was here, out of fear of being noticed for who they were,” Mitchell said. “That’s what prompted me to make more strong statements with PFLAG, saying we need to actually create a festival where people can come out, feel safe, network and feel good about who they are.”

PFLAG is a national LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

Mitchell described Nebraska’s non-LGBT residents as being largely “neutral” toward the LGBT community because “they haven’t had to deal with that topic visibly.”

The level of support from the community at the two events is appreciated, he said.

“I think it’s a start,” Mitchell said.

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the G.I. Pride Planning Committee celebrated the community’s first responders at the event.

Mitchell presented a certificate of appreciation to Grand Island Police Department, represented by Capt. Jim Duering and officers Tyler Noel and Peyton Kinne.

“We do not think about them until a tragedy happens and we’re calling them because we need their help,” he said. “These are people who are laying their lives on the line daily, oftentimes having to forgo their family needs, especially during times of crises, and so often they go unappreciated.”

He added, “Thank you so much for all of the things you guys do.”

Mitchell also recognized Mychal Judge, an openly gay New York City Fire Department chaplain who, while delivering prayers and rites for rescuers and victims at the World Trade Center site, was killed when the South Tower collapsed 20 years ago.

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