ST. LOUIS – The annual Tower Grove Pride Festival returns this weekend at Tower Grove Park.  

People attending the event call it a welcoming, open, and safe place for the whole family.  

Harris, who goes by their last name, came out as non-binary a year ago and recognizes the importance of the event.

“This is a chance for us to come out and be part of our community and also share some of our community beliefs with people that might not know much about it,” Harris said. “It’s an educational event, as well as a celebration of who we are.” 

Rev. Lauren Bennett is a pastor at Harris’ church. It’s the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, which strives to be a hub for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“MCCGSL is really a beacon of hope and light in the community,” Bennett said. “At least that’s what we strive to be. We say every week in worship that we invite people to come as they are, believing as they do.” 

To Bennett, this includes how you identify and your sexual orientation.

“I see myself as pansexual, so I could be in a relationship with anyone of any gender,” she said. “Right now I’m in a committed relationship with another woman. I see gender and sexuality as a spectrum and one that we often move through throughout our lives.”

There’s no shortage of food, fun and live entertainment out here at the Tower Grove Pride Festival. Michael Powers is the founder and organizer of Tower Grove Pride. This is second year in a row in which organizers have held the event in September. It’s also the first time it’s been a two-day event.

“We had to push back one year because we saw some spikes that we were concerned with COVID [in 2020],” he said. “We moved it into September [2021] and the outpouring was just phenomenal.” 

There are around 300 vendors and three stages. Powers is expecting at least 30,000 or more people to attend each day of the event, Saturday and Sunday. Tower Grove Pride has partnered with multiple community activists and businesses.

“St. Louis is a place where you can be safe,” Powers said. “You can happily have a life and be out and proud as a member of the LGBT community, so that’s kind of what this is all about.  

The festival continues Sunday, Sept. 25 and goes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was founded in 2012. LGBTQIA+ History Month starts in one week.