In an increasingly polarized day and age, Pride St. Louis Vice President Marty Zuniga says seeing more than 300,000 of his closest gay friends and allies in downtown St. Louis is heartwarming. The city is expected to double in population this weekend for the 39th annual PrideFest to support the LGBT community.
“I always get goose bumps at the end of each day when our big headliners take the stage and you stand there and look out over the crowd,” he says. “All you see are people dancing, hugging and sometimes there’s tears but it’s tears of joy. We’re allowing people to be who they are and celebrate themselves.”
Zuniga, who is in his eighth year of organizing the event with many other volunteers, says they expect a record turnout and a record 160 entries for Sunday’s parade.
“For someone who may not be comfortable in their own home, for someone who may not know who are struggling with coming out, knows that this is a time and place where they can come and be with 300,000 of their closest friends who won’t judge them for who they are, how they look or what they want to wear. That’s why I do this,” he says.
PrideFest will include live music, activities for the whole family and its ever-so-popular parade at noon on Sunday. Zuniga says a $5 donation is encouraged but not required.
Donations will help the organization cover the costs of the festival and its Pride Center. The site provides services for LGBT individuals like counseling, a computer lab, a library, clothing, a food pantry and more.
“We provide scholarships throughout the year. We provide teaching seminars to the community. We are more than just a festival,” he says. “This may be our largest event of the year but Pride St. Louis carries on our mission year round.”
The event is rain or shine from 11-7 p.m. on Saturday and 11-6 p.m. on Sunday
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