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Hundreds Gather for Pridefest, Crowd Stands Together with Orlando

Hundreds gathered on Park Central Square on Saturday for the annual Greater Ozarks Pridefest. 

The event aims to increase public awareness of the LGBT community and to celebrate diversity with visibility. 

The crowd cheered as the host chanted “we stand tall, stand straight, stand together with Orlando!” This year’s event in Springfield came about a week after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were killed.

Many volunteers helped to put on the event. Cody West, the mother of two teenage girls, says she got involved to teach her young daughters acceptance. 

“I want to teach them to love everybody, accept everybody,” said West. West’s daughters have friends who belong to the LGBT community; she learned their struggle through her daughters' friends.

She added, “I want to teach them to make judgment only by how people treat you, nothing else."

Rhonda Melvin, who came out to support her lesbian friend, shares the same views as West.

“I am a married woman; I am married to a man. However, I feel it’s extremely important for all of us to come together as human beings who believe in the rights of everybody,” Melvin said. “I am here to support my best friend, as well as everyone else who’s in the community that absolutely deserve equal right.”

The crowd danced, cheered, sang along with the entertainers until sunset. As people were leaving the square, Melvin said “love is love; we are all human beings.”