BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — Year after year the City of Brookings continues to rank as the most LGBTQ inclusive city in South Dakota according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The reason for the perfect score comes down to love for all members of the community according to LGBTQ advocates in Brookings.

Charmaine Houck is the founder of Brookings Pride and credits South Dakota State University for bringing a diverse group of people from diverse backgrounds, countries and religions as the reason for the community’s willingness to accept all types of people.

“We have really taken it to heart that we need to be open and welcoming to all people,” Houck said.

Houck is originally from North Dakota but has been a resident of Brookings for over a decade now. Having experienced Pride in North Dakota and Minnesota, Houck wanted to bring the Brookings community together during Pride. 

Initially, the event was held at the Old Market, but the turnout was so large that people had to be turned away. This year, Brookings Pride will move its celebrations to Pioneer Park. Houck said the Pride event, which will be held Saturday, June 11, will be in the style of a family barbecue with family-friendly events for all who attend.

“Knowing that your neighbors have your back really changes the way you feel when you’re at home so it’s a nice place to have a community where we can still do that for each other,” Houck said.

Houck said this year’s Pride will help connect members of the community with each other and supportive organizations within Brookings. That includes PFLAG Brookings.

PFLAG president Teri Johnson attributes the inclusivity of the Brookings community to the many organizations and partnerships that work together to create a welcoming city. That includes PFLAG, Pride, the public library, the Human Rights Commission, churches and the police department.

“We’re just there to support and love our children, our friends, all of those that are in the LGBTQ community and continually advocate for them,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that as allies to the LGBTQ community, it’s the mission of PFLAG to educate themselves on issues regarding the community.

“We don’t feel that it’s our sons and daughters who are LGBTQ to educate us, that’s not their job,” Johnson said. “They’ve got enough just to navigate life, and especially in a state like South Dakota that’s all they can do is navigate and keep safe.”

Following months of anti-LGBTQ legislation both in South Dakota and across the country, Brookings Pride organizers are ready to celebrate members of the LGBTQ community.

“I think this year means so much more for so many reasons, not just legislative but the fact that we’re all finally being able to come out and come together again,” Houck said.