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Paducah Pridefest to feature music, drag performances and more

Paducah Pridefest

A Pride festival celebrating the LGBTQ community is returning to downtown Paducah this upcoming weekend featuring drag performances, music from LGBTQ artists, local businesses and churches.

Paducah Pridefest lead organizer Jeff Hudson said the festival on Saturday, June 4 was coordinated in about three months after organizers learned that a local LGBTQ resource center Heartland Equality – which put on the city’s first Pride festival in 2019 – was not going to coordinate a festival this year.

“We all thought it was important to have a Pride event this year, and so it truly is a grassroots, volunteer-led initiative,” Hudson said.

Hudson said the recently new nonprofit Beautiful Paducah decided to work with volunteers as the official event sponsor to accept donations and pay expenses related to the event. Festival sponsors include Ingram Marine Group, the Thrive Dispensary in Metropolis, Illinois, Community Financial Services Bank, the advocacy organization Fairness Campaign, the national vodka brand Tito’s Handmade Vodka and more.

The event is being held in the parking lot between the Johnson Bar & Italian Village Pizza from noon to 9 p.m., with a $5 donation requested with entry. Hudson said the festival is a family-friendly event that’s open to all ages.

The festival will showcase 18 local drag performers and an evening performance from LaLa Ri, a drag performer who was named “Miss Congeniality” as a contestant on the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Hudson said he’s particularly proud that all musical and drag performers will be from the LGBTQ community because he believes seeing that representation up on stage is important for the community. The festival is being headlined by Christian folk-rock musician Jennifer Knapp. He said he’s grateful to have the “art form” of drag performances on display in Paducah, involving people of all gender identities.

“Drag queens have been an important part of the LGBTQ-plus history and have been key people in fighting for the rights of the community,” Hudson said. “It's great to have that representation in this type of Pride event. It's meaningful, it's celebratory, and it's really a great art form to be able to enjoy.”

Hudson said given perceived attacks on LGBTQ people – particularly transgender people through what advocates say are recent anti-transgender legislation passed in Kentucky and other states – it makes the festival “more important than ever” as a way to be visible and have a welcoming space for LGBTQ people during Pride Month in June.

“To have this kind of event to celebrate the love and the community, I think it's so important,” Hudson said.

Disclosure: WKMS Public Radio is one of the fiscal sponsors for the festival.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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