Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
These are the colors of the six-banded rainbow flag, the common symbol representing LGBT pride since 1978. When Joe McCulley sees that colorful banner flutter in the breeze during Sioux City Pride, a day that serves as both a celebration of the values of Pride Month and of the Siouxland community itself, he can’t help but be reminded of what that flag signifies – the history, the hardships, the responsibilities and the victories surrounding LGBT people.
“My heart kind of swells up and I get real emotional,” said McCulley. “It's almost like the patriotism you see when you see the American Flag on the Fourth of July. […] It celebrates where we’ve come from and the things that we’ve overcome. It also inspires us to work harder for things in the future.”
For McCulley, the hard work never ends. The executive director of Sioux City Pride worked year-round to prepare for this year’s Pride event at Doxx Warehouse Bar and Firehouse Bar and the surrounding streets downtown Sioux City. In the weeks leading up to Pride, McCulley said his life and the lives of his organizers have been absolutely chaotic, but in a good way.
“We’re still having a lot of fun doing it, which is kind of the goofy part of it,” he said. “Our committee is constantly talking on Facebook in our chat room. We’re having a good time and we’re all really excited about it. We can barely sleep at night.”
What are they most excited about this year? McCulley said everyone is looking forward to the turnout. Last year’s Pride was a surprise hit, attracting an estimated 1,000 people.
“I anticipate that it will be more than double this year,” he said. “This year we’re putting so much more into it. We’re bringing in a lot more vendors for the street fair. Last year we had 20 [vendors], but this year we have more than 50.”
If you’re lucky, you might even spot the little marks of blue chalk McCulley used to measure out the spaces for vendors on Fifth Street and the surrounding alleyway between the two bars. Seems like a heck of a lot of work, right? Well, by now, McCulley is used to it.
In addition to organizing last year’s Pride, he’s prepared other Pride Month-related events and festivals, but none of this magnitude. “Last year was the first time we really had a bigger outdoor festival,” he said. And with the full cooperation of the Firehouse and Doxx staff onboard, McCulley and his committee have free reign to turn Pride into a real spectacle.
In addition to celebrating individuality, acceptance and the other values of Pride Month, Sioux City Pride’s entertainment/show director Brian Meland said he and his committee members had their sights on ingraining itself into the community, emphasizing the inclusion of families during the early hours of the event.
“Yeah it’s an LGBT focus, but it’s more about individual uniqueness,” he said. “Everybody is different. We all come from different walks. It’s open for everybody. It’s not just the LGBT community. It’s whatever community. It’s the Sioux City community.”
Having visited other Pride Month festivals and fairs across the country, McCulley said a fair number of them are not “child friendly.” For Sioux City Pride, wanted families and kids to enjoy the activities of Pride and implemented a cut-off time at 6 p.m. Afterwards, the events – drag queen bingo, social hours, lip synch battle, etc. – are strictly for people ages 21-and-over.
The Sioux City Pride committee picked the color red for this year’s event; a color which Meland describes as the symbol of “love and acceptance and life.” Each subsequent year, McCulley said Pride will explore another color of the LGBT Pride flag and emphasize its meaning.
“Red is the celebration of life,” said McCulley. “It’s nice to be able to celebrate that and at the same time find other people who are unique and different and find that common thread between you. What makes you the same as someone who might be transgender or someone who is gay or lesbian? Find that common thread and make friendships. You can really build a community with that.”