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Festival brings LGBTQ+ community together in downtown



Jonesboro, Arkansas – A drag queen and a teacher, two locals, find common ground at a festival honoring many forms of love.

People celebrated all day long in downtown Jonesboro, which was filled with rainbows. On Saturday, June 8, NEA Progress held NEA PRIDEfest 2024 to honor the variety, history, and continuous fight for acceptance and equality of the LGBTQ+ community.

Main Street hosted the event for the very first time.

There were hundreds of people in attendance, enjoying the local vendors, live music, and unique onstage events (such as drag shows and talent displays).

For some festivalgoers, the event represented liberation.

Earlier this week, in her homeland of Region 8, drag diva Hellena Hanbasquette took home the title of MX NEA PRIDE 2024. The former student of Brookland High School and native of Jonesboro has spoken about her experiences as an outcast in her youth. According to her, it changed around two years ago.

“When I first started performing drag, I didn’t even know this whole community existed,” Hanbasquette said.

According to Hanbasquette, she received the love and support she needed to pursue her aspirations after beginning their drag journey. She mentioned that PRIDEfest’s welcoming atmosphere makes Jonesboro seem more like home.

“It is so gratifying to see how many other people there are like me out here,” Hanbasquette said.

A local educator showed her students some love by going to the festival. “We live in an area that’s not always so supportive,” Cherry Valley native and Jonesboro resident Kalina Smith said.

“I am a teacher and I have a lot of students who are LGBT, and I like to come to events that I know support everyone,” Smith said.

The festival is set to end with a Sunset Street Dance and the Main Event Drag Show.



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