The blended shades of bright colors in Maleah Patterson’s rainbow-themed eye shadow complemented her vibrant spirit while visiting downtown Owasso over the weekend.
Patterson and her husband, Adam, attended a pride rally at Redbud Festival Park on Saturday to show their support for the LGBTQ community (see photo gallery).
“Whenever I found out about this … I was really excited,” said Patterson, who recently came out as bisexual. “It’s important to me to be able to finally be fully out to family members and friends; I wanted to be able to come and support the community and also be a part of a group.”
Adam added, “I’m very surprised at how many people turned out here in Owasso of all places. It makes me happy that the group is so vast.”
The Pattersons joined hundreds of other area residents inside the 2-acre park, located in the heart of Owasso’s burgeoning Redbud District, to enjoy music, food, games and other activities commemorating their pride journey.
Stephanie Ingersoll, an organizer of the event, spent the last several weeks planning the three-hour rally, which served as one of the first organized pride gatherings for Owasso.
“We were originally just going to do a tiny little picnic in the park, and then it grew … everybody wanted to be a part of it,” Ingersoll said, “so we raised the money, rented the place and it all went from there.”
Her 13-year-old son, Robin Gray, who came out as both transgender and bisexual about a year ago, had a major influence on their mother’s decision to host the inaugural gathering.
“I always wanted to have a pride (event) here because for some kids, especially my age, it’s hard for them,” Robin Gray said. “To have a place for kids to come here — and just hang out and celebrate who they are and be proud of who they are — is just incredible.”
Jaclyn Murano and Leo McQuade were among Robin Gray’s numerous teenage acquaintances who participated in Saturday’s rally, which provided them a platform to express themselves.
“Coming here and being supported is really nice,” said Murano, who identifies as pansexual. “It’s good because I know that there’s more people like me and it’s not just me; I’m not alone.”
McQuade, who identifies as nonbinary, added, “It’s really important to represent LGBTQ youth because I’m in seventh grade; we can still decide we want to be something.”
Students like Murano and McQuade can also find solace in Owasso High School’s Equality Club, which meets every Thursday at the West Campus and plays host to conversations about inclusion, self-expression and more.
Saturday’s pride event played host to a field full of waving flags, spirited attire, loud cheers and more that attracted the attention of participants and passersby alike, including Ingersoll who walked away with a renewed sense of pride.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed, my heart is completely full, I’ve been teary all day,” Ingersoll said. “I didn’t know Owasso could do it, but here we are doing it, and it’s just going to get bigger.”