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The Southern Indiana Pride festival is returning for the first time since 2019

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Southern Indiana Pride is returning this weekend for its first parade and festival in three years.

The group put on its inaugural celebration of the LGBTQ community in 2016, when it was known as Jeffersonville Pride. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to cancel the Pride festival.

“Because of our community of supporters, our sponsors, our volunteers and our board of directors, we're coming back very strong,” said Evan Stoner, founder and president of Southern Indiana Pride. “We're very appreciative of everyone who's played a role in the comeback of this festival.”

The family-friendly event is free and will include a parade, local vendor booths and performances at Big Four Station Park on Saturday.

Stoner said it’ll give Hoosiers a space where they feel accepted.

“That might give you a little bit of room and a little bit of comfort and say, ‘Oh, I can actually come out and live my authentic self here,’ because there is so much support here in Southern Indiana,” Stoner said. “So just having that representation in the community is vital.”

Lyndsay Prichard, the community liaison for event sponsor Wellstone Regional Hospital, said that kind of support can be life-changing, especially for people living in a conservative-leaning area like Southern Indiana.

Wellstone will have a booth at the festival to help promote inclusivity and the importance of mental health services. Prichard said many young people in the community may struggle to feel validated and accepted.

“It really helps them to see there are other people like me, and that really just sets the tone for the rest of their life, honestly, that they can feel connected to other members of their own community right here in their own backyard,” Prichard said.

Pride board member John Wohrle said local performers will hit the stage at the park for concerts and a drag show.

“It's going to be a really fun experience,” Wohrle said. “What better way to celebrate Pride than having a really amazing show and getting some people up and dancing and having a good time?”

The Southern Indiana Pride parade kicks off near the NoCo Arts and Cultural District at 4 p.m. Saturday. That’ll end at Big Four Station Park in Jeffersonville, where the celebration will continue.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.