VERNON COUNTY, Mo. — Pride made its return to Vernon County this weekend. This afternoon marked the second “Pride In the Park” by Southwestern Pride. Roughly 17 LGBTQ+ friendly vendors, performers, and resources filled Marmaduke Park.

It also marks a big year for Southwestern Pride — since the last Pride In the Park, the organization has formalized — allowing it to support the LGBTQ+ communities in surrounding counties as well.

“It’s really a great thing to be able to help with, because it’s almost a forgotten part of our community in Vernon County and so it’s very good for us to be able to get together and talk to them and give them a safe spot to meet each other and hang out,” said Lucas Conner, Southwestern Pride VP.

“We didn’t have protection like we do now. We didn’t have a place to go to, and if there was it was always it was very, very secretive, so I feel that it’s very, very important that we don’t forget who paved the way for us. They had a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Some of them ended up in jail or prison, so that way we would have enough freedom to be able to come out here and enjoy ourself,” said Randy Hutchinson-Ray, Southwestern Pride President.

Since last year, Southwestern Pride has held two community town halls in Nevada and Butler to discuss LGBTQ+ issues.