On Aug. 26, people started to gather on the streets of downtown Columbia. The annual PrideFest brought hundreds of people from around the community. The festival included live performances, a drag show, and a variety of food and activities. Organizations from the community showed their support by setting up vendor tables throughout the festival. There were over 80 vendors including Safe House, Vision Eye Care Center, Central Missouri Humane Society, and more.
CPS’s Gay Straight Alliance, also known as GSA, had a booth for the first time since the festival started. PrideFest started 14 years ago and every year they continue to grow in attendance. GSA students from around the school district ran the booth with coloring sheets, free water, bubbles, and more.
Melissa Smith, club sponsor of GSA, believed it was important to bring students to the festival. “All kids need to know that they have a welcoming and supportive community and that they don’t have to be alone when their going through those identity pieces of their lives,” Smith said. “PrideFest allows kids to attend a fun event where everybody all ages feels genuinely inclusive and supported.” Smith has attended the festival for over six years and looks forward to future contributions GSA will have.
Students from GSA attended the event for many reasons. Ian Graves, a leader for GSA, has attended PrideFest for two years. “More middle schools are starting to have GSA club’s to educate people at a very young age, so I was just talking to students about the club and spreading awareness,” Graves said.
Jackson Triplett, first time attendee, said, “Everything here is just so exciting. I heard great things about it from GSA and I think it’s cool that it’s a day we can just celebrate who we are and talk to a lot of different people.”
Triplett joined GSA last year because he was struggling with his identity. “I was confused during that time and I was trying to sort out my feelings alone,” Triplitt said. “Joining GSA made me realize that you don’t have to figure it out all on your own and being around a supportive group made it much easier to talk about.”
Triplett showed up to the event wearing a unique outfit. “I’m not ashamed of who I am anymore,” he told me.
As the 2018 PrideFest came to a close, Triplett hoped this event has a lasting impact on people not just in the community, but also in the hallways of Battle High School. “Everyone should leave here feeling comfortable with who they are and that they don’t have to feel ashamed or uncomfortable. There’s a world full of hate, but at Battle High School we should strive for a community of love,” he said, “I wish everyone could experience a community I have in GSA because it’s important to know that you’re welcome here.”
There isn’t a planned date for PrideFest next year, but it is likely to return. GSA will have their first meeting of the year on September 10 in room J210 right after school.