VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Wednesday marked three years since the deadly shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida. A shooter killed 49 people and injured 53 at Pulse Night Club in 2016. Members of the LGBTQ community are honoring their memory as they celebrate June Pride month. Those celebrations are also starting to trickle into smaller communities in KELOLAND.
This week, as we’ve covered Sioux Falls’ longtime pride celebration, more communities outside of the city are contacting us. Watertown, Pierre, Brookings, and Vermillion are all hosting pride events this year. Some of them for the first time.
For a long time, it was hard to find a movie focused on the LGBTQ community. That’s why James Cooper says it’s fitting the ’90s movie ,To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, kicks off the town’s Pride Week.
“It’s going to be really funny. Obviously, it has to do with being in small town,” Cooper said.
Cooper, a co-organizer of Vermillion Pride, came out when he was 13, and says he can relate.
“Having grown up in small towns myself, I know it can weigh on you at times. You think of the lack of dating pool or friend pool,” Cooper said.
Vermillion’s first ever Pride week is a sign of changing times. Co-organizer Chris Larson says the event is getting a lot of support, and gives a lot of credit to the University of South Dakota.
“So, I think there’s always been a certain level of acceptance within in the community, but as the years go on, people get more and more accepting,” Larson said.
In addition to the Coyote Twin Movie Theater, other businesses have signed on to help with a week’s worth of events. Larson says local churches are also showing support.
“Being able to address some of the issues that LGBTQ+ persons have had to deal with the church, harm that’s been done, and being able to come together as a community of faith and really say, hey, everybody is valid,” Larson said.
For a long time, it hasn’t been easy for the LGBTQ community to fit in small towns. Whether it’s in a movie theater, or in real life; Cooper hopes Vermillion Pride helps people see their true colors and the courage to show them.
“However we can show support, if we can be the light that guides them to finding comfort or finding a place to be proud. That’s important to us,” Cooper said.
To find a list of events, you can visit Vermillion Pride’s Facebook page.