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‘An Amazing Community.’ State College Celebrates Pride 2024

For Centre LGBT+ board member Fermin Almeida, State College Pride 2024 was a celebration of community and support that lasts year-round.

The jubilant crowd on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Sidney Friedman Park and all the people and organizations who came together to make the celebration a success were proof positive of that.

“In Centre County, look what we have,” Almeida said. “We have community. We have love. We have acceptance. We have each other. That’s huge. In Centre County of all places, we’re making that happen. And it’s thanks to all of y’all — showing up here, being part of this, enjoying each other, basking in the love and all the hard work that goes into this. This is not possible without any of you all.”

The fourth annual State College Pride — an event that has grown and continues to establish itself as a summer tradition with each passing year — kicked off on Saturday morning with a parade through downtown followed by an afternoon festival in the park, along with other events throughout the weekend.

Starting at State College Area High School, the parade featured a wide range of participants: nonprofit organizations, faith congregations, school and university groups, local government leaders, businesses and support organizations.

It was led by grand marshal Marinette Pichon, a French soccer legend who is a member of and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Joined by her wife, Ingrid Moatti, Pichon made her second visit to State College after previously attending the Centre Film Festival last fall for a screening of “Marinette,” a biopic based on her life.

“Being among you today means a lot to me and to our community,” Pichon said. “We must continue to move forward so that everyone — everyone — is happy as they are. This is the most important thing. Be happy. Be yourself. Love who you are.”

Since its inaugural edition in 2021, State College Pride has grown to draw thousands of people each year.

Centre LGBT+, which formed in 2014 as the Centre LGBTQA Support Network and last year opened its first physical location on Calder Way, has been the driving force behind it, with support from State College Borough, the Downtown State College Improvement District and numerous sponsors.

“This is an amazing community,” said Kevin Kassab, a State College Borough Council member, vice chair of the Centre LGBT+ board and chair of the Pride committee. “What is sitting here in front of me is an example of the love, the support that State College and surrounding communities get.”

Kassab took a moment to honor volunteer Tim Cook, presenting him with a certificate of appreciation for his dedication and commitment to Centre LGBT+.

“Even before [Centre LGBT+] was established and became a brick and mortar, he’s always been there to do the heavy lifting,” Kassab said. “Tim’s an amazing person… Without him the committee never could have made it through this year’s Pride.”

The Pride celebration illustrates how State College values community, Mayor Ezra Nanes said.

“This is exactly what State College is all about,” Nanes said. “We celebrate who we are, who each and every one of us is. It’s what makes us a strong and vibrant community. It is our policy, officially, to support you, and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community are fundamental to who we are.”

Nanes rode in the parade with his wife and two daughters, driving in an old pickup truck that belonged to a friend. As the truck neared the end of the parade route on an incline on South Fraser Street, it stalled out and wouldn’t start back up.

What happened next would turn out to be a metaphor for that strong community Nanes cited. Parade participants and watchers rushed into the street and pushed the truck up the final hill.

“That’s what community is,” Nanes said. “When we have a little trouble, we have a hard time, we help each other and we lift each other up. The work is going to continue, there’s going to be challenges and we’re going to help each other up that hill.”