Pride committees prepare for celebrations

With the anniversary of the Stonewall riots fast approaching, Pride festival organizers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul are preparing for the celebrations in their respective cities. A relocation to Nicollet Island and bad weather plunged last year's Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival committee into significant debt. Now the event is back in Loring Park on June 27 and 28, with an expected attendance of 125,000 visitors and more than 300 vendors. Across the river, Capital City Pride organizers expect a crowd of 15,000 in Mears Park on Saturday, June 20 -- triple the number estimated in attendance last year.

Jeff Crump, this year's Twin Cities Pride executive chair, says his committee is scaling back and getting smarter with their money. The committee wants to end up in the black when Pride ends, and they're getting help from major corporate sponsors including Absolut, Anheiser Busch, and $10,000 from American Express. The focus of the entertainment has also shifted. Rather than concentrate on national acts, the committee has enlisted local performers for the festival. Stephanie McCarter, the Curbfeelers, Jezebel, Skweezergrabbit, Ann Reed, Karma Sluts, and Tinea are all scheduled to appear on the Loring Park stage. Additionally, Rock the Avenue, a concert event sponsored by Hennepin Avenue businesses in conjunction with the Pride event, will feature several nationally known acts.

The Twin Cities Pride parade is also back on its old path, stepping off from Third and Hennepin at noon on Sunday and ending in Loring Park. The grand marshals for the event are Wally Swan, candidate for state treasurer and a member of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Annalee Stewart, a social-work educator and longtime Twin Cities activist. Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the late Jim Kepner, founder of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles, have been named honorary grand marshals.

Capital City Pride organizers say they've doubled the booth space for their festival to accommodate 150 vendors. Additionally, they've added a second stage for performers. Organizers predict attendance at this year's festival will get a significant boost from the scheduled appearance of vocalist Jennifer Holliday, who won a Tony award for her starring role in the Broadway production of Dream Girls on Broadway.

Capital City's main stage will feature top-name group entertainment, while a second stage will be reserved for smaller, acoustic performances. Aside from Holliday, performers scheduled to appear include Amy and Freddy, a music and comedy duo from Chicago; the Pulsation Band; Soul Tight Committee; Homemade Jam with Roxx; Hot Dish; Ponsonby Britt; the West Bank School of Music Jazz Ensemble; Bob Keolamoore; and the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Ice Castle. This year's emcees are the lovely Della Catessen, Miss Stevie, Eileen Dover, and Danielle Charboneau.

Capital City publicity coordinator Ken Worth says he and fellow organizers learned a great deal from last year's event, the first Pride festival in St. Paul, and are currently focusing on publicity and corporate sponsorships. American Express, Embassy Suites Hotel - St. Paul, and Trikkx have signed on as sponsors for this year's event.

Both Prides festivals are involved in a Q Monthly FunRaiser party at Windows on Minnesota on Saturday, May 9. The Loring Cafe will be the site of an official Twin Cities Pride Guide release party on Thursday, May 14, and Club Metro hosts Miss Richfield's Guide to Capital City Pride release party on Friday, May 15th.

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