Ever-growing Lansing Pride aims to offer ‘enjoyment, happiness and love’


Since the inaugural Lansing Pride Festival in 2022, which drew around 3,000 attendees and 90 vendors, the event has increased in size each year. This year, organizers expect around 10,000 attendees and 190 vendors, including food trucks, nonprofits, government agencies, businesses and shops. 

“People were reaching out to us last fall trying to sign up for vendor spots. We actually had to modify the layout of the festival in order to fit as many people as we could. Almost all our vendors have returned year after year because of the great turnout of the crowd,” Board President Ben Dowd said. “We typically open our vendor application at the end of January or beginning of February, and we were filled up by the end of March. Then, we changed the layout to be able to support more vendors, so now we have vendors all the way through Turner Street, we created a separate food court in a parking lot so the food vendors will have their own space, and we opened up another side street of vendors as well.” 

Dowd said the festival’s growth has been mostly natural, though increased sponsorship has also played a role. 

“I think people were excited once they saw the response of the community after the first year,” he said. “What we thought was going to be just a normal Pride has grown into something huge now.” 

One sign of continued success has been the amount of volunteers at the events. 

“I’ve thrown festivals in Old Town for many years, and I've never seen the turnout of volunteers like I have for Pride,” Dowd said. “Last year, we had so many show up — people who were registered but also people who just showed up and wanted to help, so of course, we allowed them to be part of it. This year, we're anticipating around 250 volunteers.” 

The festival will run from 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday (June 22) in Old Town. Beyond vendors, it will feature a beer tent with a variety of beverages; kids’ activities from 1 to 5 p.m., including sidewalk chalk art, a bubble area, face painting, a bounce house, demonstrations by Waverly Community Schools’ robotics program and cold treats provided by the Lansing Police Department; and special presentations, including drag queen story hours at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., an opportunity to interact with animals from Preuss Pets at 2 p.m. and a performance by Okemos dance company Happendance at 3 p.m. 

The main stage will also offer entertainment all day. DJ Fudgie will kick things off at 1 p.m., followed by an hourlong Lansing Pride programming block at 2 p.m. that will include speeches by elected officials and LGBTQ+ leaders and performances by the LanSINGout gay men’s chorus and Happendance; a drag show at 3 p.m., headlined by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 15 alum Loosey LaDuca; a performance by punk band Pet Me at 4 p.m.; the introduction of the Lansing Pride Court and Trans Michigan Court at 4:30 p.m.; a performance by experimental electronic music group Nonbinary at 5 p.m.; another drag show, also headlined by LaDuca, at 5:45 p.m.; and music by DJ Splendah at 7 p.m. Starfarm, an ‘80s cover band, will cap the evening with a set at 8 p.m. 

Attendees can register for a meet-and-greet with LaDuca at lansingpride.ticketspice.com/loosey-meet-greet. Tickets are $10 or free with the code PRIDE4EVERYONE. 

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, will speak during Lansing Pride’s programming block at 2 p.m. As a native Midwesterner, she said she’s proud of Michigan’s emergence as a trailblazer in pursuing and defending LGBTQ+ rights.  

“Because of the leadership of Gretchen Whitmer and your pro-equality state Legislature, Michigan is a beacon of hope for so many people that desperately need it,” she said. “If we're going to make sure that we have a pro-equality majority in the United States Senate, it's going to go through Michigan. So, I'm really excited to be spending some time with people who are doing so much not only for the state but really for our whole country.” 

Dowd agreed, adding that he believes Lansing is a positive outlier among other Michigan cities in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance. The Saginaw-area native has lived in Lansing for a decade but also spent time in Grand Rapids.  

“When I got here, I was blown away by the fact that I could walk through the streets holding hands with somebody, and there were never any issues. I shouldn't say never, but very rarely are there any issues or any comments made,” he said. “Much of that is based on the acceptance and the nature of love in the community, and I think that just stems from having a very diverse population but also a welcoming city in general.” 

He added, “That wasn’t the case when I grew up in rural Michigan and when I lived in Grand Rapids. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that there.” 

Dowd also commended the city for raising the Pride flag in front of City Hall at the beginning of the month. It was the first time the city had made the gesture.  

“It’s important when you have city leadership that’s willing to stand with you, helps ensure folks within marginalized communities realize they’re welcome in the city and shows them that the city government is actively embracing them,” he said.  

Dowd noted that events like Lansing Pride are still necessary because “we’re not at an endpoint for equality.”  

“You’ve got to continue to move the needle because things start to be taken for granted the moment you get complacent. It's about continuously having those conversations, continuing to be visible, showing up and doing events that allow folks to feel liberated,” he said.  

Robinson likened Pride Month as a catalyst for further action.  

“Come out to Pride, but don’t stop there. Tell your story about how powerful the experience was, what it means to be a part of our community or to be an ally. Give money to the causes and the people that support your values and your views, think about investing in candidates and organizations and, of course, go out and vote,” she said.  


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