In 2020, the annual Mid-Missouri PrideFest and other LGBTQ pride events were called off in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PrideFest is making a comeback in August, and businesses and organizations throughout the region have come together to execute the event successfully.
For some businesses, such as Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co., this is far from their first experience with PrideFest. General manager, Paddy Jernigan, says that this is Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co.’s sixth year as a sponsor and vendor for PrideFest. “Any big community festival we always look forward to being a part of,” Jernigan says. “We believe big in inclusion as one of our company models so we’re happy to do it.”
Meanwhile, others are recent additions to the support for PrideFest. “This will be our first year hosting them and we’re really excited about it,” Annie La Fevers, event coordinator for Bur Oak Brewing Company, says.
For some sponsors, PrideFest is more than just an opportunity to show support for the community. Curtis Brooks, owner of Curtis Brooks Hairstylist, became involved with PrideFest as a performer long before he became a sponsor for the event. Brooks, Jennicka Fierz as his drag persona, won Queen of Pride 2012 and Regent of Pride in 2019.
“For me to be a sponsor for pride, and also participate in the drag shows at pride, it just makes me feel proud,” Brooks says. “I just want to be a beacon of hope. When I was a kid, I didn't really see a lot of representation and see myself in a lot of other people, so if I can be a role model or give a younger queer person representation that it's okay to be yourself, I think that's my goal.”
Pride can mean a variety of things to the participating sponsors, but many share a common core goal: inclusivity and support for their fellow community members.
“We just want everybody in every corner, in every area, to be able to do well, be good, express themselves, have success (and) be supported,” Lloyd Henry says. Henry is the owner of Big Daddy’s BBQ, another sponsor and vendor for the fest.
PrideFest is an opportunity for individuals and organizations to show their support for the LGBTQ community, however, the need for local support doesn’t end with the festival and many of the sponsors seem to be aware of this.
“Whether it’s hiring employment, (or in regard) to the customers, anyone is welcome to our food truck and in the doors of our new restaurant,” Jernigan says. “We support the Pride movement and we’re happy to be a part of it.”