Local LGBTQ+ people seek community at Grand Forks' Pride in the Park

Aug. 27—GRAND FORKS — At Grand Forks' Pride in the Park, LGBTQ+ people have the opportunity to learn about regional resources, support local businesses and connect with each other.

"You just meet people you wouldn't have any other way," said Kyle Thorson, Grand Forks Pride Committee member. "There's not a gay bar in town, there's not a place people go. These types of events do truly help organically connect people who have similar values."

Pride in the Park took place on Saturday, Aug. 26. It's consistently been the largest event of Grand Forks Pride Week, and Thorson suspects this year is the biggest yet. There were about 45 vendors: local nonprofits, clubs, churches, artists and businesses.

At Target's booth, employees Dan Strayer and Alex Perling gave away Pride-related items and invited people to write a note explaining what Pride means to them. The notes were posted on a board, and included things like: hope, community, acceptance and being fully yourself.

Maura Ferguson, Grand Forks Pride Committee member, stressed the need to create a place for those ideals.

"It is so important that we do this — that we gather in this safe space," she said, "for ourselves to be who we are, and celebrate that."

For some people, Pride events are one of their few safe spaces.

"This morning, (I) talked with somebody whose family wasn't accepting of them," Thorson said. "They found some community and some space here, and that was really important for them."

Finding people is vital for your safety and health, Thorson said. Health and safety were emphasized by multiple vendors, and a wide variety of resources were represented.

One safety resource was the Grand Forks Police Department, represented by Officer Brian Samson, the department's cultural and LGBTQ+ liaison.

"We find it very important to be at these events," Samson said. "Being out in public, (LGBTQ+ people) know there's somebody on the police force that can help — and that we're here for them."

Mental health was represented by A Johnston Therapy, PLLC. Katherine Dachtler, a mental health therapist, decided to get involved with Pride in the Park because she believes it's important to build inclusive, welcoming spaces — especially for those seeking mental health services.

"It's important for people to feel comfortable," Dachtler said. "When they are trying to process some of the things that put them at their most vulnerable, they (should) feel safe and secure."

This year's Pride week began on Sunday, Aug. 20, and ended on Sunday, Aug. 27. Thorson said he was very happy with how the week was going, with all events bringing in 50 or more attendees.

"It's been a fun week," Thorson said. "Each event is put on by a different group of folks or a different organization. We have a committee this year, so each person took (the lead in) an event, and I think that's also drawn some different people and different crowds to each of those."