The Neighberz

The small town of Pine City will again be the setting for one of the few rural LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) pride celebrations in the world as it hosts “East Central Minnesota Pride” on Sunday, June 5, from noon to 5 p.m.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of this event which offers music, food and a rendezvous of friends, family and community in a new location – downtown Pine City in the Robinson Park town square at 200 5th Street SE. Having moved from across the Snake River in Voyageur Park to the heart of Pine City, this year’s gathering promotes the theme “Pride in the Heart.”

“We’ve managed to overcome all of the obstacles thrown our way by the people who are less open-minded than us, and yet we’re still here,” said Ariel Dunbar of Pine City, a member of the East Central Minnesota Pride Board. “We’re still growing stronger.”

Headlining Pride is Minneapolis-based, British singer-songwriter Katy Vernon. Also performing are North Branch-based The Neighberz Band, no stranger to East Central Minnesota, and Duluth-based “Take It With You” live radio theatre. Twin Cities Public Television’s Val Mondor returns as this year’s emcee and Geo Montecillo will deejay.   

This celebration serves the five-county region of East Central Minnesota, Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties, and attracts attendees from the hubs of the region such as North Branch (pop. 10,087), and even its tiny villages, like Denham (pop. 34).

East Central Minnesota Pride involves many collaborators including East Central Minnesota Men’s Circle, East Central Minnesota Purple Circle, East Central Minnesota chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Rural Aids Action Network, Rainbow Health Initiative and OutFront Minnesota, among others.

Several businesses throughout the region support and help sponsor the event as well, and this activity is funded through a grant from the East Central Regional Arts Council through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State’s General Fund.

This rural part of Minnesota has seen much change over the last 12 years. Most recent census data show that in 2010 Pine City and its surrounding townships have become some of the gay strongholds of Minnesota, with the most same-sex coupled households of anywhere else outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

East Central Minnesota Pride kicks off the first such celebration in Minnesota each year in June during what President Obama has declared as “Pride Month.” The other Gay Pride events in the state are in Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth-Superior, Mankato, Rochester and the Twin Cities, all of which are in metropolitan areas. 

“Our goal has always been to provide caring support and friendship for LGBT people living in the rural area of Minnesota,” said Don Quaintance of Centerville, a founding Pride Board member.  “This event brings people from all walks of life together in friendship, community and progress in understanding.”

There is a suggested donation for food. For more information call Julie at 612-817-9541 or visit

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