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Baton Rouge Pride Fest takes over the River Center on Saturday

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BATON ROUGE - Thousands made their way to the Raisin' Canes River Center Saturday afternoon for the annual Baton Rouge Pride Fest.

The fest has grown every year. What originally started out as just a picnic has now become so large the event moved to the River Center. A few years down the road, they even hope to add a parade to the festivities.

Pride Fest has always been about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, organizers say but it also acts as a resource fair.

The fest has also given a lot of small businesses their big boost over the years. This year dozens of local shops set up stands. Artist Abe Negaran had his creations on display. 

"Everything here (on the stand) is hand painted with toothpicks. I take a toothpick, dip it in paint, and then I free hand my design." Negaran said.

Various organizations like ExxonMobil, iHeart Media and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation sponsored this years fest. One longtime sponsor of the event is the Metropolitan Community Church of Baton Rouge. Their pastor James Hartman says the church is always welcome to everyone.

"We were found originally for LGBT Christians who initially were not welcome in other places, but MCC is still flourishing with more than 100 churches around the world." Hartman said.

The theme of this year's fest is "Tell It to My Pride," a play on Taylor Dayne's 1987 debut single 'Tell It to My Heart.' The pop star was at the event to preform for the crowd.

Fest organizers say that the event has always made it a goal of welcoming everyone to a safe environment.

"One takeaway I hope they leave with is actually feeling loved. Feeling that there is a place for you. There is a spot in this life for you to be who you are." Wiselak said.

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