TUPELO • This year’s Tupelo Pride celebration will outdo its predecessor, according to organizers. The second annual Tupelo Pride occurs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Fairpark with a kickoff party from 7 to 11:30 p.m Friday at the Link Centre Reception Hall. This year, Toyota Mississippi serves as the chief sponsor.
Tupelo Pride president Linn Wotring said this year, they are planning for a much larger crowd of about 1,000 attendees. Both Wotring and Tupelo Pride planning committee member Melanie Deas said last year’s pride proved more successful than initially planned, so this year they began planning in May.
“Anyone who wants to join us in celebrating our diversity and common humanity is welcome,” Deas said.
The event will feature a few dozen vendors from nonprofits and merchants, some of which includes food trucks, counseling agencies and a few churches. A Pride Wall will occur at 1 p.m. Saturday. Entertainment includes Mary Frances Massey and Paul Tate, several drag performances from GoDiva’s Extravaganza and informational and inspirational speakers. The event is marketed as free and family-friendly.
Toyota Mississippi serves as a Rainbow sponsor, which is a sponsor that has donated $10,000 and up. This year’s Pride is also more out and proud than last year’s as well, with more advertising on Facebook, posters and word-of-mouth.
“They kept (last year’s Pride) lowkey because they didn’t know how it would really go over, and this year the board decided unanimously, ‘We’re going to be out and proud.’ Hopefully there won’t be any issues,” Wotring said.
The event will honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that helped ignite the LGBT rights movement. Representatives from the Invisible Histories Project Mississippi will present at 7:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, Toyota will be displaying a 1969 Toyota Corolla and a brand new one. Main Street will also bring in a Corolla that will be given away. There will also be a visual display showcasing LGBT history over the past 50 years, and attendees will be invited to include their own stories.
“It’s a very incredibly visually striking symbol of how much has changed in 50 years,” Deas said. “It’s awesome to see how much cars have changed in 50 years and use that as a metaphor for how much our society has changed in that 50 years as well.”
According to a press release from PFLAG Tupelo, PFLAG Tupelo, ACLU of Mississippi, Human Rights Campaign Mississippi, Indivisible Northeast Mississippi, and other representatives provide educational information.
“PFLAG is an organization which for decades has existed to support, educate, and advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community and their friends and family members. Toyota’s donation to PFLAG Tupelo gives our organization the opportunity for more visibility in our community and to celebrate all of the LGBTQ population’s achievements and contributions to that community,” said PFLAG Tupelo President Amanda Daniels in a press release.
More than a dozen people based out of PFLAG Tupelo helped plan this year’s event, and more than 50 volunteers are expected at Fairpark on Saturday. Deas said additional volunteers are welcome.
Wotring said she invites people to bring a lawn chair and come out for a good time. She said it was important to honor the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and National Coming Out Day by showing people they are loved, especially with it being in the South.
“It’s very important for me to see people come together and enjoy themselves together as a community with family and friends, and to think where we were 50 years ago (versus) where we are today. I think the growth we’ve had in the last 50 years didn’t even seem possible,” Wotring said.
For more details, visit tupelopride.org or the Tupelo Pride Facebook page.