In 2005, the East Central Mens Circle, a discussion and support group for about 70 gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning men in East Central Minnesota decided to gather together for a pride event (then more of a picnic) in Pine City. Since, the Purple Circle (the women’s counterpart to the Mens’ Circle), the regional PFLAG chapter, and other groups have banded together to strengthen and enhance the event.
For the 11th-straight year, Pine City has been host to East Central Minnesota Pride, an LGBT pride event held the first weekend in June. The event gives LGBT people of East Central Minnesota, those questioning, and their friends, family and allies an opportunity to meet and build community in an otherwise isolated part of the state.
Without the event, organizers believe there may not exist an “LGBT community” in this part of the State. Bigger cities across the globe, from London to Minneapolis, have had prides for decades. The gay pride in Pine City began when it was just one of two rural prides in the world! The need has been evident in the event’s growth, from record attendance numbers to a record number of vendors, sponsors and supporters.
There are several ways in which East Central Minnesota Pride has improved the quality of life in this part of the State. It serves the vulnerable, LGBT youth populations, especially those who are at-risk of suicide, showing that there are other LGBT people nearby to offer support and encouragement. It serves as a mechanism for civil rights engagement. Also, it promotes tolerance through a community dialogue about LGBT issues. The entire event is innovative in that it isn’t being done elsewhere in a small town (even still).
The other Minnesota gay prides are in Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth-Superior, Mankato, Rochester and the Twin Cities, each of which are in metropolitan areas. Since Pine City’s pride has proven successful, other Outstate cities such as Brainerd and Willmar have tried their hats at pride as well. Perhaps it will catch on in other small towns throughout Greater Minnesota, across America, and in other parts of the World.