Nevaeha Le’Vixenn giving a high energy performance of Plastic Doll by Lady Gaga. Photo Courtesy of Madelyn Smith / SNAPPER
(ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 21, 2021)
Associate Opinion Editor
The eighth Annual Pride Fest and Drag Show took place at Millersville University’s Student Memorial Center last Friday, October 15th, in celebration and support of the LGBTQ+ community. This festival is one of MU’s largest on-campus events, providing free food, collectible items, and resources for members of the queer and trans community and their allies. Held in October of each year, Pride Fest is deliberately organized to coincide with Coming Out Day, a holiday on October 11th commemorating the decision for people to freely express their identity, or “come out,” and be themselves. For the majority of students, this was their first time attending such an event in person during their time at this university; the event was either canceled or held virtually the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous organizations, including but not limited to Campus Life, the Rita Smith Wade-El Intercultural Center, University Activities Board, and Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), collaborated to create as inclusive and enjoyable an event as possible.
Bex Shenk, a senior and first-time Vice President of GSA, spoke candidly regarding their time at MU as an LGBTQ+ student, as well as their involvement in their first ever Pride festival. “I was not out when I initially started looking at Millersville … in the past, I had to put myself back in the closet. After I left my relationship and old school, I started coming out in quarantine while at Millersville. I mainly chose this school, even before I came out, because I felt this was a safe environment.”
Bex eagerly anticipated working with their fellow e-board members – Alyssa Staface, Sara Smith, and Elliot Coralluzzo – to organize this event. Their sentiment is shared with other students as well.
“This is my second time attending Pride, but my first time helping organize,” said Elliot Coralluzzo, a senior and GSA’s historian, “compared to what they are used to in high school, many students, especially queer and trans youth, find [Millersville] much more inclusive and helpful. Besides Pride Fest, they have great resources and policies, like the name change policy, which make things easier for them here.”
From 5 to 7 p.m., food vendors, local LGBT organizations and support groups, and even a bouncy castle lined the brick paths between the SMC and Gordinier Hall, welcoming all students and residents of Millersville to the free event. Outside, students could receive help and resources from the likes of GSA, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Lancaster’s Pride Parade and the faith-based Embrace Network, which connects students to queer-friendly churches and parishes.
Inside the Student Memorial Center, students could register for the event, and were also encouraged to visit vendors outside in order to receive a free t-shirt. The Campus Life office also organized a cupcake decorating station, while an airbrush station also stood across the hall. Near the Multi-Purpose Room, numerous tables decorated with pride flags offered free pins, stickers, lanyards, and more, displaying many flags resembling various sexualities and gender identities.
At 6:30 p.m., attendees lined up in front of the commuter lounge for a meet and greet with the special guests of the evening – three drag performers, set to perform that night. The meet and greet was followed by the drag show, which has been with Pride Fest as an event since the former’s inception. Hosted by local queen, Nevaeha Le’Vixenn, the show included lip syncing challenges and musical numbers performed by Shuga Cain and Silky Nutmeg Ganache, both of whom previously competed on season 11 of the popular reality show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Attendees enthusiastically cheered and screamed for their favorite queens, singing and dancing along to each tune. The pair of performers even invited six students, including myself, to compete for prizes in a lip sync challenge. While I did not win the challenge, I was one of four contestants to receive collectible Shuga Cain pins for participating in the challenge. The event concluded at 10 p.m., with students and staff feverishly retreating to their homes and dorms following an evening of excitement.
Such an exhilarating event would not be possible, however, without the organizations or individuals responsible, including Campus Life Director and event coordinator J. Whitlow. While addressing the crowd, they stated, “we have worked so hard to host this festival on campus and are glad to see everyone here. It means so much, and we look forward to more events for our community.”
Even with the curtains closing and everyone leaving for the night, Pride Fest is not over, but only beginning, as students and staff anticipate future events.