‘We need more love’: Niles City Council green lights inaugural Pride festival

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2023

NILES — A planned Pride Month event was the hot topic at the Niles City Council meeting Monday night.

After listening to more than one hour of spirited public comments on both sides of the issue, the Niles City Council voted unanimously to grant permission for the Niles Pride Committee to host its inaugural Niles Pride 2023 event from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Riverfront Amphitheater.

“The organizers have absolutely done their due diligence,” said Mayor Nick Shelton. “They filled out a very thorough application.”

This event will have a festival-type setting at the amphitheater with music and Riverfront Park to include food trucks, games and activities as well as a drag show festival organizer Hailey Colpitts said would be family friendly.

“I’m blown away,” said festival organizer Hailey Colpitts, who attended the meeting. “I’m very overwhelmed. There were a lot of comments from them about the application process and how diligently put together it was and I did that all on my own. I stood up very late some nights working on this, so it’s nice to see that the council understands that this will be a family friendly event. Hopefully this is the first of many to come.”

While the event has funding from small donors, sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals, event organizers asked to add policing to the application, which is why the agenda item came before council. The Niles Pride Committee will pay for the policing fees with its raised funds.

“I think it’s great that people from our community decided to put in the effort to plan something like this,” said Councilmember Amanda Dunnem. “Carrying out an event like this in this current climate is not always easy. It’s an important event for the LGBTQ+ people in our community so that we can show we care about them, support them and make them feel like we accept them and that they belong in our community.”

“We sponsor events for all kinds of groups,” said Councilmember John DiCostanzo. “We’ve sponsored events for religious groups. We haven’t told them what to include or what not to include…I am going to call to approve the event and I’m going to trust that the group and the sponsors be responsible and I would caution the rest of the community that if this is not what you want your children to see or the young people to see, not to attend.”

While DiCostanzo voiced his approval of the festival, he did recommend that organizers remove the drag show from programming.

The public comments portion was split between community members for and against the pride festival, with the majority of public comments opposing the festival being against the drag show that is among the scheduled activities.

Colpitts said that the drag show will be very similar to the popular Paramount Network show “Lip Sync Battle,” where celebrities lip-sync songs of their choice while outfitted with props and costumes matching the artist they’re lip syncing to.

“That’s really what this will be,” she said. “There are drag performers that impersonate Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton, and all these mega stars and that’s really just what this is gonna be and it’s gonna be fun. I hope that people who are questioning whether this is gonna be a family-friendly event or not will take the time to look up the event page and just stop by and see that we mean what we say when we say that we want the community to come and see what we’re all about.”

Councilmember Georgia Boggs said she supports the festival and hopes it fosters acceptance and inclusivity in the community.

“We need more love for one another, no matter what color, gender or whatever,” Boggs said. “We need to express that in this community. I hope that this program that the Niles Pride Committee will host is going to show the love and compassion here in Niles. I can’t say enough about some of the young people I’ve met and worked with in the school system here with some of the community students that I had worked with. I hope and pray that this will start something that will develop into love and participation with each other to make this a better community.”


Downtown Niles to host inaugural Pride festival