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Drag queen Persephone Shakers performs during the sixth annual Black Hills Center for Equality Pride Festival in Memorial Park in July 2017.

The Black Hills Pride Festival to celebrate equality anticipates its biggest crowds yet for its seventh annual event.

Organized by the Black Hills Center for Equality, the festival brings together the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Today's festival is expected to attract more than 2,200 people. 

“We want everyone to show up at our event,” said Sarah Keppen, the 2018 Black Hills Pride chair. “Anyone who supports LBGTQ rights and equality can certainly stop by and have a good time.”

The festival includes several events today, starting with Pride in the Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Memorial Park. Admission is free. Health care organizations, financial organizations, Equality South Dakota and TransAction South Dakota will be among the 52 vendors at the festival. There will be a make your own button studio, art by Tom Swift Bird, yoga in the park presented by Sol Yoga Collective, and food trucks and trolleys, Keppen said. A bouncy house, kaleidoscope ride and more will entertain children in the kids area.

Live entertainment will be a mix of something for everyone, Keppen said, including a drag show at noon, acoustic music, and a full band performing from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Oglala Pet Project hosts the second annual Pet Pride contest from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with judging from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Youth Pride for kids up to age 18 will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Garage, 402 St. Joseph St. Admission is free. There will be snacks, games, door prizes, music from DJ Grace Hagel and more.  

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Youth Pride was organized by high school students. “I feel it’s so important," Keppen said. "That way, it’s organized the way students think it would be most comfortable for themselves and their peers,” Keppen said. “We want youth to get into activism early. It keeps them involved. It’s important for us to get the youth involved to keep things going toward the future.”

The official Black Hills Pride afterparty, for those 18 and older, runs from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Dakota Ballroom at Holiday Inn - Rushmore Plaza. Admission is $10 at the door. The night's entertainment includes drag performers and music with Crissy Davies of Hot 93.1.

The Pride activities conclude Sunday with a new interfaith service, Building Community, at 12:30 p.m. at the Old Storybook Island Shelter. Five churches that affirm the LGBTQ+ community will participate in an hour of songs, worship, meditation and more. Everyone who wants to build community is welcome.

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