Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced Pride Fest returns to Downtown Merced


The Merced Pride Festival brought lots of color to Main Street in Merced last Saturday — the first time since 2019 and the subsequent covid pandemic lockdowns. This year’s celebration included over 70 vendors as well as live music from DJ Disappearing People, drag performances, speakers, a community dance party, and live arts exhibitions and creation spaces.

The day’s events kicked off at 11:30AM at the Multicultural Arts Center with Maria Belen who led local residents through an arts therapy session entitled “Exfoliating Trauma Through Art” followed by a “Creator Space” with the Merced Pride Center. Both events were free to the public and worked with residents who were looking to express themselves through their creativity in an artistic space.

The event picked up on Main Street at 5PM with live music by DJ Disappearing People and a speech by Merced Pride Chair and Festival Director Jennifer McQueen, and a speech by guest speaker Merced City Councilwoman Bertha Perez.

“We have some folks here in our city that are putting some serious support, and some serious heavy weight behind all the work that we’re trying to do that is uplifting us and pushing us forward in everything were trying to accomplish,” McQueen told those gathered. “These are folks like City Manager Stephanie Dietz, Jessica and John in Public Works… These three people were absolutely monumental in getting us here today.”

McQueen also thanked Merced City Council members Fernando Echevarria, Bertha Perez and Jesse Ornelas for being a “driving force” in helping support the event and its organizers.

During her speech, Councilwoman Perez spoke about the importance of all members of the community feeling safe and able to express themselves. “I am so proud to be able to speak tonight and bring awareness to the LGBTQ community,” she said. “It is so important that our community feels safe and comfortable to express themselves in order to build a better community for the future. This world would be so much better if we just made an effort to love one another and that is exactly what takes place today here at this event.”

In Bob Hart Square, the Youth Leadership Institute hosted a mobile library center as well as a youth zone that invited Merced’s youngest residents to participate in the event. Continuing on into the night, the event would wrap up with an official after party hosted by The Partisan tavern.

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