The Howard County Pride festival is returning this fall after being canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The daylong event on Oct. 9 will be hosted in coordination with the Inner Arbor Trust at the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods in Columbia, said Jumel Howard, chair of the HoCo Pride group. HoCo Pride, which is fiscally sponsored by the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Howard County chapter, organizes events and programs to support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in Howard County.
Howard said the group formally decided in February it would host a 2021 Pride event as vaccination numbers increased and the prospect of a fall in-person festival became feasible.
“It’s coming at a good time. As things are starting to open back up, it makes planning easier as well,” Howard said. “We don’t expect everyone to feel comfortable to come out to an event like this, and we totally understand that.”
Max Crownover, president of the Howard County chapter of PFLAG, said he’s happy to see the return of Pride to Howard after the COVID-19 derailment, particularly during October, which is LGBT History Month.
The county’s inaugural festival in 2019 was held in June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month, celebrating the anniversary of the month of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. The riots occurred in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood after police raided a gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn. The bar was run by the mob, and police were known for raiding spaces frequented by those in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender communities.
“It was such a great experience back in 2019. We had a lot of momentum and really kind of riding the high and, like so many other things in 2020, we were disappointed [to have to cancel],” Crownover said. “We will be in a much better position this fall to have a really open and full Pride celebration.”
Howard said the biggest change from 2019 Pride is the venue change from Centennial Park to the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods.
“We are in a much bigger space, so that will allow us to accommodate [for large numbers of people] much more smoothly than we were before,” he said.
Howard estimates this year’s Pride will attract at least 5,000 people, if not more.
“Having the event here in downtown Columbia, parking is ample and accessibility is one of our top priorities, and we’re really getting it in this location,” Howard said.
Crownover said he’s hopeful a broader spectrum of organizations will participate in the event this year.
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“I’m hoping that by doing our festival in October we’ll be able to bring people from a broader radius, maybe get some people from outside of Howard County to support us. That would be awesome,” Crownover said.
Nina Basu, president and CEO of Inner Arbor Trust which manages Symphony Woods, said the trust will partner with nonprofits and offer venue services.
“We’ll help with the organization and the logistics and help promote the event,” Basu said. “We work with a lot of organizations to facilitate their programming, but we think where we can be the most service to the community is to really work with a lot of established groups to realize their vision.”
Though this is the first time Inner Arbor Trust is hosting the Pride festival, Basu said it has hosted other inclusive events in the past.
“It’s this safe space and this really integrative space for all people in the community,” Basu said. “This celebration is such an integral part to our values, and we really are just thrilled this is in the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods but also in Columbia. It speaks to value of inclusion in Columbia.”
For now, HoCo Pride is focused on securing vendors and sponsors for the event, finding an emcee and lining up entertainment.
“I’m very excited this is finally happening,” Howard said. “The excitement that we’re getting from local organizations has been heartwarming.”