Group plans LGBTQ pride festival in southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — A group in southern Illinois is organizing an LGBTQ pride festival following a successful fundraising campaign.

The Southern Illinois Pride Festival planning committee is preparing for a three-day celebration in downtown Carbondale starting June 1, The Southern Illinoisan reported . The committee’s GoFundMe campaign recently raised $700 to cover the festival’s basic needs.

Since the city’s nearest LGBTQ festival is in St. Louis, organizers wanted to coordinate a more local opportunity, said Tara Bell-Janowick, a committee member.

“Something that is more central and localized for Southern Illinois, that people can actually get to without driving two or three hours, is really important,” Bell-Janowick said.

The event will be particularly important for young people, said Chip Loghry, the vice chair of the Rainbow Cafe, an LGBTQ center for youth. Many youth, particularly those in rural communities, have a hard time, he said.

“We are really trying to actively involve our youth and the local (Gay-Straight Alliances) to get them out there, networking and being out and proud in the community,” Loghry said.

More than 20 local and regional organizations are slated to participate. The event will feature a pride walk, a screening of the movie “Milk” and live music. A concert and drag show will also be held to benefit the Rainbow Cafe.

“Hopefully within a few years if the event continues to grow, we’ll be able to do a full parade with participation from more organizations and floats and all that great stuff,” Bell-Janowick said.

A service at Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship is also planned, and will be followed by Ralph Anderson Interfaith Dialogues: Coming Out in Faith.