The 51st Twin Cities Pride Festival opens during a pivotal year in Minnesota

Celebrating the 51st Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park

Celebrating the 51st Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park

The 51st Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park — a place of diversity and inclusion.

“It’s very welcoming, very open,” says Victoria Potter from Blaine. “You can just come and feel like family.”

“It’s lovely, it’s crowded, it’s happy, it’s pleasant,” adds Berchyves Egersdorf from Atlanta. “Lots of options, in terms of merchandise, love it.”

Organizers expect up to 600,000 people to attend the event — which has now expanded into the Sculpture Garden for the first time.

“How lucky are we in the state of Minnesota, where all of us come together without fear and celebrate all our differences,” exclaims Jill Pavlak, from St. Paul

“We wanted to make sure that it includes all LGBTQ members,” says Andi Otto, the festival’s Executive Director. “Every part of the spectrum.”

Otto’s first year in that position comes at a pivotal time for the LGBTQ community.

In April, Governor Tim Walz signed into law a measure making Minnesota a trans refuge state — protecting transgender people, their families, and health care providers from legal repercussions if they travel here to get gender-affirming care.

“Whether it’s just going to a doctor and not having to hide who you are, just to get things for a cough or whether it’s mental health issues,” Otto explains.

New beginnings, but also a sense of history here.

One exhibit displays photos and posters of the festival’s beginning, dating back to 1973.

“About fifty people,” Otto says. “Twenty-five stayed here in Loring Park, twenty-five went and marched down Nicollet Avenue, and those folks who were here stayed here to make sure if they get arrested, they could bail them out.”

A precursor, perhaps, of today’s struggle for transgender equality.

“All are welcome here,” Pavlak notes. “Minnesota is a refuge state, thank goodness. I’m so grateful I live here and my business is here.”

The festival is attracting visitors from some faraway places.

Sanela Hililivic flew in from London on Friday.

“It is really cool — can’t wait to have a look,” she says. “I think it’s very important and I’m grateful for the awareness and such a free event. People just come from all over, that can be whoever they want to be.”

For many, this is a time to celebrate their pride and joy.

The crowds, the vendors, the food — and perhaps most of all, a sense of community.

“Very welcoming,” Egersdorf smiles. “You can be yourself. I don’t feel any judgment here.”

You can find out more about Twin Cities Pride events happening this weekend here.