Kansas will host its first-ever statewide Pride festival in the capital city of Topeka. In partnership with Visit Topeka and Pride Kansas, the day-long celebration will take place on September 24, with festivities including a historic rally outside the Kansas Capitol and a celebration in the downtown district, with several national activists in attendance.
“I am proud to help kick off this historic event in Topeka,” said Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla. “It’s our mission to become a leading city for inclusivity. Most recently, our Municipal Equality Index score — demonstrating how cities support the LGBTQ+ people who live and work there — received the highest total in the state, tying only with Overland Park. But we don’t stop here. We continue to increase our efforts year after year, and this inaugural Pride parade represents that.”
The festival will include a foot procession through downtown Topeka and a celebration at the city’s Evergy Plaza. Attendees can enjoy live music from regional indie rock band Oceanside Hotels and Lawrence country singer Ryan Manuel, as well as diverse comedy acts, food trucks and a beer garden. The celebration will conclude with an inaugural Pride Kansas Drag Night at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, showcasing some of the state’s most exciting drag queens.
“Pride Kansas is committed to showing the world the true character of our state and the people who live here,” said Shawn Zarazua, director of Pride Kansas. “Kansas is filled with artists, activists, politicians and entrepreneurs who are dedicated to creating a destination full of acceptance and love. This celebration will further enhance LGBTQ+ pride in our community and hopefully snowball into future events, initiatives and resources for underrepresented groups.”
Kansas representative Brandon Woodard, who was elected to the Kansas State Legislature in 2018 as one of the state’s first openly gay state representatives, will be in attendance along with Kansas native and national LGBTQ+ activist, Stacy Lentz. She is the co-owner of the Stonewall Inn, a national historic landmark and site of the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement and CEO of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.
“As someone who grew up being LGBTQ+ in Kansas, I know how affirming and impactful the first-ever statewide Kansas Pride will be,” Lentz said. “I am thrilled to be a part of this historic event and gathering of community members and allies to show visibility. Even in 2022, the LGBTQ+ community is still under attack, stigmatized and often feels isolated, so we know being seen and celebrated for our authentic selves can save lives.”
Aside from the event, attendees are encouraged to explore local venues like North Topeka Arts and Entertainment (NOTO) District, Studio 62, an eclectic art bar that hosts weekly drag shows, and Equality House, one of Topeka's best-known monuments of Pride, where visitors can sign the outside and take pictures in front of the home’s rainbow backdrop.
"From the statehouse to sports and everything in between, LGBTQ+ representation is essential in all aspects of life," said Kansas representative Brandon Woodard. "It's wonderful to see my home state prioritizing our community by adding to its list of LGBTQ+ resources, events and offerings year after year."
“Topeka is the perfect destination for Kansas’ first-ever statewide Pride celebration,” said Sean Dixon, president of Visit Topeka. “From Pride-themed monuments like the rainbow-covered Equality House to initiatives like ‘Inclusive Topeka,’ which encourages businesses throughout the city to show their dedication to inclusivity — LGBTQ+ representation is a priority in our community. We can’t wait to welcome visitors from near and far who are curious about what Topeka and the state have to offer.”