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Pride on Tour festivals coming to southwest Michigan throughout June

OutCenter Southwest Michigan is organizing three separate pride events in Dowagiac, Niles and Benton Harbor this June.
Courtesy of OutCenter Southwest Michigan
OutCenter Southwest Michigan is organizing three separate pride events in Dowagiac, Niles and Benton Harbor this June.

Pride month is getting into full swing and on Saturday Dowagiac will have what’s believed to be its first ever pride festival.

Next weekend, Niles is hosting the second annual Michiana PrideFest and the week after that, Benton Harbor is holding a pride festival as well.

The series of pride celebrations is thanks in part to the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, who’s helping organize all three festivals as part of the group’s PrideFest on Tour initiative.

OutCenter is a nonprofit focusing on LGBTQ education, support and advocacy and has been organizing pride celebrations in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area for a few years. But ahead of this year’s pride month, organizers in Niles and Dowagiac reached out so OutCenter decided to take the show on the road.

“After COVID, the call from our community was ‘Let's start doing free events outdoors. Invite everybody,'" said MaryJo Schnell, the executive director of OutCenter. "This is the first year that we are doing PrideFest in multiple locations and the reason for it is folks in Niles and Dowagiac reached out to us."

Last year saw a smattering ofpride events in smaller cities, with Niles, Buchanan and Three River holding their first large festivals. Schnell said organizers in Niles reached out asking for help making their event even better for 2024. Organizing events wasn't the original goal of OutCenter, but Schnell said public celebrations like pride month are good ways to create a more welcoming environment for LGTBQ people, especially those living in rural pockets of southwest Michigan.

At first that meant making inroads with various school districts to let kids coming out know what resources they had available. Now, that philosophy is paying dividends in a different way.

"What we decided 10 years ago was we had to go to the communities where people are living. The seeds for reaching into these communities were planted many years ago," Schnell said.

All the OutCenter festivals will start at 4 p.m. and will feature drag shows, booths, food and live music in the evening. Buchanan and Three Rivers are also holding fests this year for their second years.


-June 8 Dowagiac starting 4 p.m.

-June 15 Niles starting 4 p.m.

-June 22 Benton Harbor starting 4 p.m.

-June 29 Three Rivers starting noon

-June 30 Buchanan starting 4 p.m.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.