ALTON — With a nudge from a friend the ball started rolling to organize the inaugural Alton Pride Fall Festival set for Saturday, Oct. 3, at Liberty Bank Amphitheater.
“Nicci Kincer, on the board of Belleville-based Metro East Pride Southwestern Illinois, asked if I’d thought about doing this in Alton,” recalled Mike Paynic, owner of Bubby and Sissy’s, a longtime popular Alton bar at 602 Belle St., “and said, ‘You need to start thinking about doing that.’
“It’s not just about a festival, but also providing a place for teens to go and be safe and be accepted in life,” Paynic said. “Not only human acceptability, but we also discussed suicide, which doesn’t even have to be a teen, because young adults come up to me at the bar and say, ‘I’m just done with life, I want to kill myself.’
“I tell them, ‘People love you, and don’t do that, don’t think that,’” he recounted. “A couple weeks later I’ll see them again, and they’ll tell me, ‘I’m really glad I talked to you. I feel a lot better. Thanks.’”
“We are setting ourselves apart from other Pride organizations by focusing on giving back to our community, rather than hosting just a parade or festival.”
Alton Pride will be depositing a majority of event proceeds into an account structured to fund the nonprofit organization’s goal of developing a local teen suicide prevention line and creating a teen resource center to help youth in need.
“By supporting Alton Pride in any capacity, you’ll be assisting others in the community by saving lives and bringing awareness to homelessness, mental health, teen suicide and other issues regarding the LGBTQ-plus community,” Paynic explained.
If you go:
What: Alton Pride Inc. board meeting & Alton Pride Fall Festival planning
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 4
Where: Johnson’s Corner, 2000 State St., Alton
Info: Meetings held the first Tuesday of each month at Johnson’s Corner, open to the public, all are welcome. A few board and committee positions still are open. Upcoming fundraisers include Sunday, Feb. 9, at Bubby & Sissy’s, 602 Belle St., with food donated by Big Boy’s Q Catering, and “Fun Fling” from 5-8 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Bubby and Sissy’s, with live music from Jerseyville’s Flip The Frog. Visit www.altonpride.com and follow Alton Pride on Facebook and Instagram for more information.
Since the seed was planted last summer, Paynic has formed a board and a 501(c)(3) for Alton Pride Inc., for which fundraising already has started. In short order, the nonprofit raised $3,500 from donors, since it created the Alton Pride Facebook page. An open-to-the-public board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Johnson’s Corner, 2000 State St., in Alton.
Along with Kincer, Coordinated Youth and Human Services, in Granite City, also is involved in presenting the first Alton Pride Festival.
Key board members include Paynic’s sister, Debbie Paynic, Treva Swain, Brandon Becton, Jason Heeren and his partner Levi Kamp, with Gershwin Mortgage, who also is involved in some Grafton businesses, secretary Anne McCoy and treasurer Bret Brimberry, who works at CNB Bank and Trust, on Homer Adams Parkway, who donated $100 to Alton Pride, which CNB gave to each of its employees as a Christmas gift directed to go to a charity of the employee’s choice.
Prior to Alton Pride’s Tuesday board meeting, Brimberry will speak at “What’s Up Downtown,” Alton Main Street’s quarterly information exchange, at 5:30 p.m. at Jacoby Arts Center, 627 E. Broadway, in Alton.
“We’re all doing this together, even though I’m on the 501(c)(3) and have the president title, I don’t put myself above anyone, ever,” Mike Paynic said. “It’s a group effort.
“It’s funny, we did a float in the Alton Halloween Parade and got $50 for third place. People thought we were Pride, the beautification organization, but we’re Alton Pride,” he noted.
“We got the 501(c)(3) status a couple months ago as a nonprofit.”
Alton Pride’s mission statement, as it appears on its website, www.altonpride.com, and Paynic repeated, is:
“Alton Pride is a charitable and educational organization established to bring awareness, understanding and advocacy to the LGBTQ-plus community, with an emphasis on the specific needs of the youth within the community.”
The Alton Pride Inc. Board of Directors recently sent out sponsorship letters for its the fall fest.
“And now we’re finding out some larger corporations want to have budget information,” Paynic noted. “We’ve told them, ‘Well, we’ve never done this before,’ all of us that’s on the board.
“We’re like babies who learned to crawl, and now we’re starting to walk and growing with it, too.”
There still are a few board positions open and committee members needed.
“We still have few spots for people to lead and to serve under our committee persons,” he said.
Alton Pride board meetings are at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at Johnson’s Corner. As the official president of Alton Pride, Paynic leads the meetings and the secretary takes and provides minutes.
“All are welcome,” Paynic said. “Our secretary, Anne, helps me along. We try to get to all the topics and keep the meetings under two hours, but there’s a lot to discuss.”
A small fundraiser at Bubby and Sissy’s is Sunday, Feb. 9. Big Boy’s Q Catering will donate food for the event.
The board has a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Alton amphitheater, to discuss entertainment and finalize the headliner for October’s Alton Pride Fall Festival.
“We’ve already had a lady email us and say she’s going to be protesting the day of the festival,” Paynic said. “I simply explained that we are about uniting the community, that’s where we stand. We’re helping youth. We are about love and acceptance.”
Another fundraiser, Fun Fling, is scheduled from 5-8 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Bubby and Sissy’s, with a live band, Flip The Frog.
St. Louis-based Gateway Men’s Chorus and CHARIS, The St. Louis Women’s Chorus, are confirmed for the festival date, as well as singers Summer Osborne and Jen Norman. Flip The Frog will open the festival on the outdoor stage. The festival also will include a “Pride Idol” contest, from which the winner will sing the national anthem. At least four female impersonators will perform a number here and there, and also emcee the event.
Visit www.altonpride.com and follow Alton Pride on Facebook and Instagram for more information.
Reach Jill Moon at 618-208-6448 and Twitter @jill_moon.