The Springfield PrideFest is coming to The Phoenix Center on May 20, 2017 with a parade starting at 11am. PrideFest, which began in 2011, is celebrating its 7th year with a logo that features the 7th annual theme and a memorial tribute to former board president, M.T. Vann. Eighteen21.com spoke with Springfield PrideFest founder and executive director and Phoenix Center executive director, and co-chair, 55-year-old Meredosia, IL native, Jonna J. Cooley PhD., to learn more about this growing event.
Who founded Springfield PrideFest?
Actually, I did. I went to Peoria Pride and thought “why couldn’t we do this in Springfield?” I formed a committee and here we are.
What is Springfield PrideFest?
A free, family friendly, street festival celebrating diversity and embracing equality. There is a teen lounge, a kid’s area, over 60 vendors, food, drinks, live music, rock climbing wall, and lots of fun.
Where is PrideFest held?
It is on Capitol Ave. between 4th and 6th and 5th between Monroe and American Legion Dr. The same as the first year, except it was only one block then, it is now four.
Why did you launch PrideFest?
PrideFest is intended to bring the Springfield and Central Illinois LGBT community together to promote equality for and, at that time, to fight for marriage equality. I thought it was important to show a sense of community, open minds, and grow pride. I’ve been with the Phoenix Center for 11 years and PrideFest since the beginning. Our first meeting was in 2010.
How does PrideFest impact the Springfield community?
It’s an opportunity to remind everyone in Springfield that there is an LGBT community, it brings people together to support one another, it reminds those living in isolation that they are not alone, it promotes the services of the many agencies that serve the LGBT community, and it gives allies a chance to show their support.
Are there any new features this year?
A parade. The parade will start at 5th and Allen and go north on 5th to Jackson. Those watching the parade can join at the end and walk into PrideFest with the parade to the ribbon cutting ceremony. There will also be more vendors, a rock-climbing wall, teen drag show, and a few surprises.
What is the biggest challenge when orchestrating this event?
Getting it all organized. There are great people, who serve as committee chairs, involved in this event. It would not happen without them. Roy Pyers, my co-chair, Heather and Casey Karaffa – teen lounge chairs, Sam Silva, Teresa Garrett-Brown, Jacob Thornton – kid’s area chairs, Betsy Willmore – entertainment chair, Duane Williams – drag show chair, Nick Bond – social media chair, Sam Jackson – PR and hospitality chair, Cindy Martsch – volunteer chair, Kyle Sullivan – printed media chair, and Kati Ayers – security chair.
How and why should people get involved?
It is a fun day, a way to give back, and show your support of the LGBT community.
1st Annual Parade
11am (5th and Allen and go north on 5th street to Jackson)
7th Annual Springfield PrideFest
May 20, 2017 noon to 10pm