‘Up North Pride’ Celebrates Inclusion and Acceptance in Traverse City

Thousands of advocates and allies made it to Traverse City Saturday for the biggest events of Up North Pride. The festival kicked off earlier this week but Saturday was the culmination of the celebration with a picnic at F&M Park followed by a march through downtown to the Open Space for a drag show.
When you think of communities supporting LGBTQ causes. Northern Michigan may not be the first that comes to mind but it’s events like Up North Pride being put on to show that there is support and awareness in the community.0034jf17 23 59 11still001
“This community is everywhere. It’s everybody’s community,” said Karen Hilt, board member, “Everybody needs to show and receive love and really that’s what this is all about.”
Now in its seventh year, Up North pride is growing. A week long festival in Traverse City aimed at showing acceptance and awareness of the LGBTQ community.
“Pride means accepting and being in love with who you are, even if others are not,” said Hilt.
Organizers know that their movement and cause won’t be accepted by everyone but they say the celebration isn’t for them, it’s for their allies and the community living in Northern Michigan.
“So many people receive so much joy and validation knowing that the world is here for you.” said Hilt.
“It’s so important to be with people with lived experience,” said Janeen Wardie, founder of Hope Lives in Northern Michigan.
The pride picnic at F&M Park Saturday was a gathering spot for festival goers and a central resource for information and programs.
“Making sure that no matter what life style they are, they matter,” said Wardie.
Wardie and her husband Ron started Hope Lives after their son’s suicide six years ago. Suicide rates are higher in the LGBTQ community and that’s why they show at Up North Pride, showing respurces and support for those struggling.
“We need to destigmatize it and make sure that people know that they matter,” said Wardie, “And that we’re talking about it normally.”
The pride picnic took up the afternoon, the night is capped with a drag show. In between the group marched down Front Street to make themselves known.
“It’s not a parade, it’s a visibility march,” said Hilt, “To show that we’re here and this is an important part of our lives.”