LODI (CBS13) – It was a first-of-a-kind celebration for Lodi on Saturday, as the city held its first-ever Pride festival.
For the residents of the community, it was a long time coming and holds extra meaning during this year’s Pride month. Music, dancing and pride in each other and the community was overflowing in Lodi in a new way for the city.READ MORE: Pigcasso: Pot-Bellied Pig Produces Award-Winning Art In Mokelumne Hill
“I’m 27 and have lived in Lodi all my life and I have never seen anything like this,” said Chalen Gutierrez.
For the first time in her hometown, she was feeling free knowing she was not alone.
“I really didn’t know of anybody like me around and coming here and seeing everybody, it makes me feel great,” Gutierrez said. “Being here, I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy before.”
That joy was long overdue for some who, until now, haven’t felt like they belong.
“It’s a very conservative town,” said Maddy Seibel. “There is a lot of homophobia, which is really sad about Lodi, so this festival, it brought Lodi together.”
The sold-out festival at Highwater Brewing Company drew a thousand people complete with a drag queen taking the stage and a comedy show.READ MORE: ‘Just Want To Bring Him Home’: Family Continues Search For Teen After Crash Into Winters Creek
“The community showed up today and showed that Lodi has a place for the queer community,” said Kathleen Ellis.
Ellis organized the festival after feeling the LGBTQ community wasn’t being embraced, with many concealing their sexuality.
“It’s not fair, and it’s messed up, and it’s old-aged,” she said. “We are dinosaurs, let’s go forward.”
Her goal was to make the city a welcoming place for everyone.
“We are doing this for the community, we are doing this to show everybody that you have a home,” Ellis said. “I think that people are really used to not having a home here.”
The hometown celebration brought pride and positivity, but most importantly, acceptance.
“Anybody is welcome, that is the biggest thing,” Gutierrez said. “We are accepting of everybody .”MORE NEWS: Amador County Father Details Moments Family Was Forced To Flee River As Electra Fire Sparked
Organizers say that while this is their first festival, it will not be their last. They are already planning next year’s now annual celebration.