A group spanning the length of five blocks marches in downtown Soldotna, Alaska, to celebrate Pride Month on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

A group spanning the length of five blocks marches in downtown Soldotna, Alaska, to celebrate Pride Month on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

Pride coming to Soldotna on Friday

The event will begin at 5:45 p.m. on Friday with a march from the Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park

Pride is coming to Soldotna this Friday, and the celebration will look different from last year’s. In addition to a march demonstration, community members are also invited to Soldotna Creek Park for live entertainment and access to resources that support the LGBTQI+ community.

Leslie Byrd is one of the main organizers of Soldotna Pride in the Park. She said she thinks it’s important to continue providing safe spaces for LGBTQI+ people.

“You have allies, even if you don’t feel like you can be visible, there are people here who are in your corner,” Byrd said. “And we want to make a better community so that those folks can be comfortable living more authentically.”

Pride celebrations began on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City in June 1969 — when LGBTQI+ activists demonstrated for six days against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar, according to the Library of Congress. Since then, LGBTQI+ individuals and allies have celebrated Pride in communities across the country.

Byrd said some of her most influential mentors on the central peninsula have been members of the queer community.

One of those mentors was Tammie Willis, a local advocate for LGBTQI+ rights and gay person herself, who reported being stabbed in her Sterling home in December 2019. According to previous Clarion reporting, Willis said she could only assume the assault was because of her sexual orientation, but couldn’t prove that it was.

Byrd said she wants to follow in her mentor’s footsteps.

“I’m kind of picking up her mantle,” she said. “I do this work on behalf of her and those who can’t just walk down the street and hold hands with their partner because people are so scared and bigoted.”

Soldotna Pride will begin at 5:45 p.m. on Friday with a march from the Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park. After the march there will be a live drag show and music entertainment at the park, as well as a limited number of vendors and resource booths.

The event is supported by Bridges Community Resource Network Inc., a Soldotna nonprofit that seeks to provide access to a diverse array of resources supporting the community’s emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Identity Inc. — an Anchorage-based LGBTQI+ advocacy organization — helped organize the entertainment for Friday’s event.

For more information on Soldotna Pride in the Park, follow the event Facebook Page.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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