2 new events slated to celebrate diversity in Albert Lea

Published 9:00 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

New events are coming to Albert Lea centered around inclusion.

“Having diverse events, having educational events, having events that aren’t just traditional festivals, are wonderful for a growing community,” said Holly Babcock, executive director of Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as Albert Lea Main Street Program. “If we continue to say we want Albert Lea to grow … we need to not put barriers about who we are welcoming into our community.

Holly Babcock

“And not just putting barriers, but actual equity.”

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The Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Albert Lea Main Street Program are hosting their first annual Pride Festival from noon to 4 pm. June 17 at Central Park.

“Basically it’s going to be just like any other festival that organizations put on with food trucks, entertainment,” she said.

A beer tent will be on hand, as well as food trucks and resource booths, and there will also be children’s activities, including bounce houses and yard games.

Prior to the festival there will be a drag brunch starting at 8:45 a.m. at the American Legion with performers. Breakfast will be included for the 18+ ticketed event. Cost is $40 in advance, and (if still available) $50 at the door.

It’s her hope these events can continue the forward momentum of the city celebrating its diverse community and developing welcoming events, which included a Cinco de Mayo event.

Babcock said people were coming forward and thanking her for drawing attention and support to the LGBTQ+ community, and added this was a step towards making people feel safe enough to be themselves.

Albert Lea is also having a Juneteenth event at 6 p.m. June 19 at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

John Smith, an Albert Lea resident, educator and administrator, will be the keynote speaker.

Smith’s presentation will focus on bringing awareness to Juneteenth and its significance to the community.

“A lot of people now have Juneteenth off, it’s a holiday maybe … from work,” she said. “And most people still don’t even know what the importance, or the significance, or what the meaning is of Juneteenth. So we felt like it was prime time for us to help kind of educate the community on what the holiday actually is and what it celebrates and what its significance is.”

Smith, of Albert Lea, is the author of “From Tragedy to Triumph.”

According to Babcock, Smith will talk about his personal experience as a person of color.

The program starts with refreshments at 5:30 p.m. in the lower level. The program is free to attend.

Most importantly, she hopes these events allow people to be themselves and be seen.

“These events are one very small step in kind of creating those safe spaces where people feel like they matter and hopefully feel safer to express themselves within our community,” she said.