Little Pride with Big Hearts

The 49th annual Atlanta Pride festival will offer something for everyone – and that includes children and teens.

Besides an array of colorful tents, umbrellas and chairs adorning the Piedmont Park field and the main stage showcasing a line-up of musical and educational entertainers, the meadow in the back near the walking trail is set aside for the Kids Zone.

It’s the second year that the kid’s activities have been offered, said Oscar Gittemeier, Adult Outreach Manager with the Fulton County Library System. Fulton County, DeKalb County, Gwinnett County, and Clayton County Libraries are all coming together to offer free programs in the Kids Zone, he said in an interview.

“The libraries will have crafts, a free photo booth, virtual reality gaming, a button maker, giant yard games, a Pop-Up Library with LGBTQ books, a quiet corner with headphones and sensory objects for folks that desire less stimulation, and Miss Terra Cotta Sugarbaker (a library volunteer) will be doing a Drag Queen Story time program,” Oscar added. People will also be able to get a library card that day.

According to Kim Sorrells, Atlanta Pride Committee’s Programs and Partnerships Manager, the yard games are “self-guided” like corn hole, football toss, giant checkers and various other games. Sorrells added that parents/guardians will need to stay with their children in the area, and they are not allowed to drop them off and leave. Child care services will not be offered, he said.

A bouncy house will also be available and a face painter will be there both Saturday and Sunday. Children can get their face painted 11:30am-1:30pm and 3-6pm on Saturday and 2-4pm on Sunday, Sorrell said of the other free activities.

For parents attending the festival with children, the Kids Zone is a much-needed amenity and for some, a pleasant surprise.

Arika Vaughn is a single parent and brought her daughter Erin to her first Pride at eight months old. She’s now five, but back then, Arika recalled there wasn’t much to do at Atlanta Pride for parents and children. That year, her pride experience was different than her previous party days. “Before, I would party all night and drink,” she noted of her previous pride days. “Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it home, but now, I still party and have fun, but it’s on a different level. I party with her now.”

This year, Arika, like many Georgia LGBTQ residents is eagerly awaiting the city’s largest LGBTQ family reunion. This year, Arika is looking to ensure that Erin has a great time too. “I was happy to hear about the Kids Zone,” she said.

“Honestly I did not know there were activities for the kids at the Pride festival,” Arika said in an interview. “Other than the parade and hanging out at the park during the day. At night, the activities seem more for the adults.”

Arika is looking forward to making arts and crafts with her daughter. “Erin loves taking scraps and making them into something useful for her dolls,” Arika added.

While the Kids Zone is geared to babies, children, and teens, Oscar noted that the venue will offer something for everyone. Located in the prime location, he said that there will be tons of people walking by who may stop and check out all that they have to offer. The idea of incorporating something for kids at Pride stemmed from a conversation at one of the library’s events held at the Rush Center two years ago, Oscar added.

The library’s outreach program’s goal is to make everyone feel welcome at the library. In the country’s current political climate, Oscar said that there has been a movement going around with libraries and that is spreading the message that “the libraries are public spaces open for everyone. You don’t have to buy anything. You’re just welcome.”

The library’s involvement in Pride coincides with the organization’s mission. According to Oscar, it’s a great opportunity to welcome everyone not only to the park for Pride but to invite them to learn about all the things that libraries have to offer. But more importantly, Oscar said the library’s involvement is great for ensuring that the young people at pride get to see themselves reflected in the books that they will have on display for purchase and the various activities they will offer.

That’s exactly what Arika hopes her young daughter takes away from attending Pride – see a reflection of her and her family. “I want her to see that there are kids that have two moms and two dads. Although I am single at this time, she knows that her mom wishes to marry a woman one day.”

But, like any parent, Arika hopes that involving Erin in a number of events and activities – Atlanta Pride being one of them that her daughter learns from her experiences. “I want her to learn tolerance. I want Erin to know that it’s ok for two men or two women to be together. I want her to know that it’s ok to be different. I want her to see happiness and love. All different colors and types of love.”