PrideFest St. Louis underway downtown; parade on Sunday

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – The annual St. Louis PrideFest is underway downtown near Soldiers Memorial. This year’s event will be marked by sadness and beefed up security.

It was less than two weeks ago 49 people were murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Participants cannot help but think about that horrific night.

“It goes to show you we are not accepted as a community in everybody’s eyes, yet that’s why we continue to do what we do; to gain that equality among everyone,” said Matt Harper, president of St. Louis PrideFest.

To keep everyone safe, St. Louis police will have both undercover and officers in uniform at the festival.

“…Our community has come together to make a big step where we have rights now and we can come together and feels safe,” PrideFest board member Jason Johnson said

Before the parade on Sunday, PrideFest St. Louis will honor those killed in Orlando.

“We’re all thinking about those people we lost and it was horrible to have that happen to our community. We will be remembering them,” said PrideFest board member Ellen Vascoy.

PrideFest began in 1981 and only a few hundred folks showed up. This year, the festival and parade are expected to attract a quarter of a million people.

“It says St. Louis has become more tolerant, more accepting of people in our community, and we’ve gotten so much support from St. Louis businesses, the government here, and the citizens of St. Louis,” said PrideFest board member Leon Braxton.