What began as an idea between two friends turned into a LGBTQ+ Pride event that drew hundreds of people on Sunday.
Talkeetna’s first Pride parade brought in a larger crowd than expected this weekend, with an estimated 300 participants. As people gathered in the village park sporting colorful outfits, face paint, and rainbow flags, Daphne Doall LaChores, a drag queen and entertainer from Anchorage, took to the microphone:
“Good afternoon. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to Talkeetna, Alaska! How’s everybody doing today? We want to welcome you to the first ever Pride parade—Pride extravaganza—here. How many people are gay today? It’s Pride Day in Talkeetna. Everybody’s gay, isn’t that right?”
The event began as an idea between two local teens, Celeste Harrell and Lillian Rust. Harrell said the concept began with a single conversation and a schedule conflict.
“About two weeks ago—a little less than that actually—her and I were just hanging out. She had wanted me to come to the Anchorage parade, but I had work,” Harrell said. “So she was like, ‘Hey, maybe we can have something Sunday,’ and I was like, ‘Sure, I have that day off.’ That’s how this endeavor happened.”
Initially, Harrell and Rust expected around 70 people. Word spread quickly about the Pride event on social media, however. The end result was a significant local turnout alongside many who drove from Anchorage or elsewhere in the Mat-Su to participate.
One of the people who made the drive is RJ Johnson, who grew up in Talkeetna, but now lives in Anchorage. Johnson is used to being on the planning end of Pride events. He said seeing his hometown celebrate in the very park where he played growing up is special.
“This is amazing. You know, in Anchorage I’ve always been part of a committee or part of planning for everything,” Johnson said. “For out here, being the first one, this is what Pride is all about, people coming together and celebrating.”
After about an hour of mingling, the parade began. As they made the customary two laps of Main Street, parade participants were greeted with waves and cheers from spectators. For a short while, Talkeetna’s bustling summer activity stopped as rainbow flags, signs, and chants filled the street.
After the parade, the celebration continued in the village park. Lillian Rust said she is grateful for everyone who supported Talkeetna’s first Pride parade.
“It turned out better than I even anticipated,” Rust said. “It was a lot less stressful and nerve-wracking than I even thought. Just getting started was all that it took. Really, the support from everyone is what really got it rolling.”
While no official plans are being made yet, many who attended Talkeetna’s first Pride celebration say they hope it’s not the last.