Pride Month, held in memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots and in honor of the LGBTQ community, ends on June 30. In Winfield, however, June 30 is the first of what organizer J.J. Proctor hopes will become a tradition: a Cowley County Pride celebration in Island Park in Winfield.
Proctor, 25, a Winfield native, said since he was outed seven years ago, he has experienced a “palpable change” in the way local people respond to the LBGTQ community.
“I expected to be shunned,” Proctor said. Instead, “People I know have moved with me. I knew support was there; people had to have a reason to show it.”
“You inspire with your courage,” said Roger Moon, who is helping Proctor organize the event.
In fact, Proctor, who turned 25 on June 2, said, “I just wanted to have a drag show for my birthday.”
But this year is the 50th anniversary of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City and the series of riots (June 28-29, 1969) that sparked the Gay Rights movement. Communities all over the country and the world now have Pride events; Proctor said he thought it was time for Cowley County to have one of its own.
The gathering is noon to 5 p.m. around the performance venue at Island Park. Proctor emphasized that it is a family-friendly event. “We want everybody to feel comfortable, to feel they can bring their kids.” He said he’s told everyone that when they express pride, it has to be done “appropriately, for kids’ eyes.”
The event begins with a bring-your-own picnic from noon to 1 p.m. That includes your own chairs and blankets as well as food and drink. Shiok! will be selling Boba Tea and Boba Coffee for those wanting a special drink.
From 1 to 2 p.m. there will be a “Show Your Pride” strut on the performance venue stage. Those taking part — straight as well as gay — can dress to show their pride. They will also have an opportunity to speak about what pride means to them.
Beginning at 2 p.m. there will be two drag shows featuring “three of the best drag queens in Kansas,” Proctor said: Imani Kouture, former All American Goddess; Terri Aqui, current Miss Gay Heartlands; and Erotica, the former Miss Gay Wichita.
Proctor said the queens were available at the last minute because one of the problems with the Pride events is that they book the black queens last or not at all.
The two sets will be separated by 30 to 45 minutes of karaoke with short speeches mixed in.
The last 15 to 20 minutes of the afternoon will be devoted to a water balloon fight behind the stage.
Besides the action on and around the stage, many local organizations will set up booths to show their support for the event and display their services. Among these are:
• The Community Health Center in Cowley County.
• American Family Suicide Prevention.
• Grace United Methodist Church, which will sponsor the water balloon fight.
• The Neighboring Group begun at Grace UMC and taking in the College Hill area. They will have tie dying with “Love Your Neighbor” shirts.
• Grace Episcopal Church will have a Prayer Wall where people can post their prayers that will be collected at the end of the event and offered at Grace the following Sunday.
• The William Newton Hospital SANE/SART group that helps victims of sexual assault.
• The Cowley County Democratic Party will have voter registration.
Proctor said they are also hoping for representatives from Cowley College and from Southwestern College.
• Cast members from “Vikings on Broadway” will sing “Seasons of Love,” and cast members from the upcoming “Newsies” will perform “Seize the Day.”
“Any groups that want to support us can sign up to have a booth,” Proctor said.
Proctor has been using his own money to fund this event, and he needs help paying for insurance and licensing. He will set up a Cowley County Pride GoFundMe page. Look for it on Facebook.