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Little Apple Pride was in full swing this weekend, as members of the community gathered in Manhattan City Park Saturday afternoon.

The morning kicked off with a parade that made its way through Aggieville. Pride co-chair, Jonathan Mertz remarked how pleased he was to see the community grow from the start of the parade, to the finish.

“We think there were about 200 people to start the parade, which pleased me, but by the time we got to the park we’re estimating there were about 500 to 600 people in the parade. People just jumped in and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Vendors set up booths in the Wefald Pavilion and helped show their pride by handing out pride flags, stickers, and other various celebratory items. Along with the support of the local community, drag queens from across the state came to show their support as well, performing live for the hundreds of LGBTQ+ supporters. One such drag queen, Starla Nyte Carmichael, a Manhattan native who has been performing in drag for 13 years, spoke on how happy and moved they were to see the amount of love and support from the community.

“It feels really amazing for me personally because 10 years ago I don’t think this would’ve been this big. I remember when we were having it in Aggieville’s Triangle Park and it was so itty-bitty tiny and now it has grown to this. It makes my heart warm,” they said.

Drag Queen Juju Noir, who has been participating in drag for 12 years, also commented on how important events like Little Apple Pride are for members of the community, giving them an opportunity to feel more open about being themselves.

“We get to be ourselves 100 percent authentically. Not everyone gets to live authentically everyday. It’s always a pleasure to see that space be provided,” they said.

After taking a hiatus for a few years due to COVID, some were unsure if holding a pride event this year would be possible. Mertz said that organization for Little Apple Pride had been in the works for almost a year, and despite feeling out of practice with organizing a large event, and the windy and overcast weather plaguing much of the afternoon,the crowd was alive with energy and community love and support.

“We’ve had a core group that’s been meeting and it’s wonderful to have a support group, a committee like that comes together and shares ideas and they were all here to make a great Pride,” he said.

Mertz emphasized that this kind of event is a great opportunity to show the proud and public display of the growing LGBTQ+ community in Manhattan, and the desire to want to reach out to those who might not be in a positive situation in life.

“It’s the people who aren’t here that I really wish we could reach out to — people who are scared, people who are in dangerous situations. I just hope that an event like this, if they were driving by, gives them a little hope,” he said.