For two years, Baton Rouge has been missing its Pride.
In 2020 and ’21, the city’s annual Pride Festival had to take a beat because of restrictions on large in-person gatherings. This June, the event finally returns—and it will be the biggest celebration yet, according to Baton Rouge Pride’s three co-chairs.
The festival will include a sprawling array of presentations and activities and even a few celebrity guest appearances from American Idol runner-up David Hernandez, Idol contestant and Queen of the Universe second alternate Ada Vox, and Snap! singer-songwriter Thea Austin.
“We want to make sure that people—because they’re looking for that community again, they’re looking for that touch, that face-to-face interaction—that they get what they’re looking for,” says Baton Rouge Pride co-chair Bobbi Wisekal-Crouch.
Beginning June 19, Pride Week will supply seven days of events around town, leading up to the June 25 festival. On that day, the event will be spread across the Raising Cane’s River Center’s convention center, river view room, meeting rooms and galleria.
Each space will house panels like Drag Queen Storytime, Drag Queen 101 and Healthy Sexual Trivia, an instructional panel on sexual health in the LGBTQ+ community led by Wisekal-Crouch, a clinical pharmacist with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
In addition to being the largest festival yet, this will also be the first with a decisive theme: “Living Out Proud,” a celebration of the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ rights movement who “paved and braved many roads” for today’s LGBTQ+ population, as the BR Pride website reads.
Co-chair Chris Bradford says a crucial aspect of that theme is a focus on community building: finding ways to establish and affirm a strong LGBTQ+ network in Baton Rouge. One way the organization has done that is by compiling a local business directory on its website of LGBTQ+-owned and -operated businesses in the city, all of which have been invited to participate in the festival’s resource fair.
“It’s important that people know which local businesses will not shun them away,” Bradford says. “Having those places out there that are open and friendly to have their name out there and seen at Pride is important.”
Among the growing list of businesses presenting in the resource fair will be Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Leur Magazine, LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana and Advanced Study, a national clinical study investigating the validity of federal regulations that make it more challenging for gay men to donate blood.
To help offer a truly inclusive experience, there will be an emphasis on family-friendly activities, co-chairs say. Wisekal-Crouch says she regrets how some Pride celebrations favor the raunchier side of queer culture and tend to only cater to adult audiences. While all that is fun, she says Pride should be something parents want to celebrate with their children so that they can begin a healthy exposure to queer culture from a young age.
“Just providing that safe zone for the conversation to happen within the family, I think, is so important,” she says. “Because then they’re not going to a stranger to look for guidance; they’re actually showing that family support within the home, and I think that is spectacular.”
During Drag Queen Storytime, local drag entertainers will dress in their best princess eleganza and read stories to children. Co-chair Carlos Perez, a drag queen himself who performs as Miranda Mann, also said he’s particularly looking forward to welcoming families to the festival.
“Just the smiles and the glee on these people’s faces when we’re out there doing all that, I miss that most of all,” he says.
Having weathered its pandemic hiatus with patience, Baton Rouge Pride Week returns in grand fashion—promising something for everyone, and more of all of it than ever before.
CHECK OUT THE LINEUP
Baton Rouge Pride Week runs June 19 to June 26, culminating in Baton Rouge Pride Festival on June 25. Visit batonrougepride.org/events for the full Pride Week schedule.
Come one, come all
Local LGBTQ-owned or -affirming businesses
Today, local business owners can love and support who they want with pride—during Pride Month and beyond. There are plenty of companies in town that are allies of the LGBTQ community by either being a part of it, supporting Baton Rouge Pride, speaking up on social media or being a historically recognized safe space for the community. For Baton Rouge Pride’s full directory of these businesses—or to find out how to become part of the directory—visit batonrougepride.org/directory.html
This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of 225 magazine.