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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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Third-annual ‘Rainbow Weekend’ prepares to bring pride to Kent

Maggie Harris
(From left to right) Students Zee Ringler (He/They) and Sienna Jepsen (She/Her) show their pride and prepare to race in last year’s “Rainbow Run” 5k.

Rainbow Weekend will come back to Downtown Kent Oct. 13 and 14, where Main Street Kent, local businesses and the university’s LGBTQ+ Center will coordinate events for the community to celebrate acceptance and inclusivity.

“Last year, we made a focus on doing family-friendly things that were more daytime and educational focusing,” said Heather Malarcik, executive director of Main Street Kent. “We don’t want it to just be for the 21-and-over crowd, we want parents and their kids to come and even college kids that aren’t 21.”

Due to the possibility of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, Main Street Kent is working closely with law enforcement to ensure increased police presence and safety for the event. 

More than 20 businesses will give away rainbow-themed items, such as snacks and stickers, at Main Street Kent’s first-ever “Rainbow Walk,” which will run like its “Chocolate Walk,” said Malarcik. Participants will also receive a free rainbow tote to put their items in while walking. 

The annual Rainbow Run will begin at Risman Plaza on Friday. The 5k race is put together by the LGBTQ+ Center and all proceeds will go to the center’s LGBTQ+ Emergency Fund, which aids students in need — some who were disowned after coming out to family.

Tickets for the run and walk are $20 each, and registration is still open for both events.

Some businesses have even decided to donate proceeds from the weekend to the Emergency Fund. Ken Ditlevson, director of KSU’s LGBTQ+ Center, says the fund is currently “critically low” due to LGBTQ students needing financial help.

There is no set goal, but the center hopes to raise the same amount as last year, which was about $5,000, from the run and donations.

“The Rainbow Run is cool because it was a student who created it,” Ditlevson said. “A student named Blake Kinzel was trying to push it for a long time. Because of him, it left a really big financial impact here and on students’ lives.”

Throughout the weekend, there will be art shows, craft workshops, markets, happy hours, and drag shows sponsored by different shops and bars downtown.

The Kent Free Library will hold the Rainbow Film Fest, showing the films “The Way He Looks,” “Rafiki” and “Straight Up” throughout the weekend, with free snacks and admission. The library will also feature a safe space training and advocacy panel on the morning of Oct. 14.

A full list of events is found on Main Street Kent’s website.

October marks National LGBTQ+ History Month, and with Kent State University students gone during Pride Month in June, it is a better option for hosting a pride event in Kent. The LGBTQ+ Center will honor the community throughout the month with different events

For National Coming Out Day Oct. 12, the center will hold a roundtable discussion the day after, as well as gather volunteers to decorate the bridge downtown with pride flags for the weekend. 

“Our whole committee just wants to show that Kent is a welcoming and affirming community, for everyone to feel celebrated,” Malarcik said. “We want to show Kent as that kind of place, that the people here feel comfortable and safe.”

Willow Jernigan is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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