Equality Springfield’s annual Pride Celebration returns

When driving down North Fountain Avenue during the month of June, you might notice rainbow-colored signs hanging from the light posts as you get closer to the city center. These signs are sponsored in part by Equality Springfield and feature the organization’s name and “Springfield Pride” in large lettering— a message in anticipation of the Pride Celebration that Equality Springfield holds downtown at the City Hall Plaza.

Since 2010, Equality Springfield’s mission has been to “champion an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community through education, advocacy and social connections.” The organization's efforts to accomplish its vision of a Clark County community that honors, values, and embraces a tapestry of diverse individuals is making an impact in Springfield.

Part of that impact is the growing Pride Celebration. Ericka Lockwood, the organization’s president, says this year’s festival will feature the most participation from the community of any before, including 40 vendors, four food trucks, and about a dozen Drag Queens to entertain the day.” 

Lockwood says the growing response shows the support Clark County has for the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s getting to be more and more, and the hate is getting to be less and less,” she says. “If they can’t hear it behind all of the supporters then it won’t matter. So hopefully next year we’ll put together an even larger celebration.” 

Besides the benefit of being able to spread out for the amount of anticipated foot traffic, Lockwood explains that this response is part of the reason why the event is held in the streets of downtown Springfield. 

“We had such a sum of people saying ‘We love it in the streets…we want it in the streets, again,’” she explains. “We’ve outgrown the plaza and simply had to spread out.”

As a real estate agent in a heterosexual marriage, Lockwood appreciates her ability to be a safe space for same-sex couples to be able to comfortably find, and purchase, a home. This milestone has historically been a challenge fueled by prejudice towards these couples, and part of what inspired Lockwood to accept the position of president for Equality Springfield.

“Even though last year was my first one, Pride to me is one of the most beautiful experiences,” she says. “Being able to see people coming out to be who they are, you can just feel love in the entire area. We’ve had families that stopped in who didn’t even know that pride was going on and brought their children, everybody got their face painted, they shopped around, and we all have a good time. It’s one of those experiences that you can feel how needed it is. What it means to me is just ‘Love’. It makes your heart grow to see everybody getting along. Until we have a world where it’s not necessary, it will be done.”

Equality Springfield Pride Celebration features a stage sponsored by 7-Eleven, the Bookmobile from the Clark County Public Library, and a Slurpee truck coming from Texas. There will be a Kickoff Drag show hosted by O’Connors Irish Pub on Friday, June 21 starting at 8:00 p.m., featuring a silent auction. The Pride Festival Downtown will be on Saturday, June 22 from noon until 4:00 p.m., with an after-party held at Mother Stewarts Brewery at 8:00 p.m. On Sunday, June 23, a brunch at the Courtyard Marriott in Downtown Springfield, featuring a drag show, rounds out the weekend.

Equality Springfield has an annual goal of $16,800 to make an event of this caliber happen.

“We’ve gathered some other entertainment as well because we’re trying to feature something for all types of people,” Lockwood adds. “...It's Pride, we’re trying to reach everyone.”

Equality Springfield generates many events throughout the year to bolster the progress of community involvement and allyship. 

“I don’t get paid, none of our board members are paid from this nonprofit, but we wanted to do more than limit the funds we’ve raised to Pride,” says Lockwood. 

This idea is what produced the annual Adult Prom which they host in October. Additionally, they host an annual ceremony at a local church in November for Transgender Day Of Remembrance.

 “We will continue our work until we’re not losing people because of who they are,” says Lockwood. 

To participate in fundraisers, volunteer, or to learn more about Equality Springfield and history of the LGBTQIA+ experience in this region: https://www.equalityspringfield.org/index.php 
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Read more articles by Wil Hoffman.

Wil Hoffman is a Springfield Native and recent graduate of Ohio University. Having achieved a degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in the Performing Arts, it wasn’t until a screenwriting class that he became aware of his interest in writing. Upon his return hewas eager to get involved in the community that Springfield has to offer, and found the Springfield Hub to be a great opportunity to do just that while sharpening his typographic abilities. In his spare time he enjoys golf and exploring the nature trails of the area when it's warm enough, and enjoying the numerous live music acts from the region when it's cooler.