AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – After previously hosting festivities in area parks, the Panhandle Pride Festival will be moving locations for its 2022 event, officials announced during an event Tuesday morning. 

The 2022 Panhandle Pride Fest will be hosted at the Starlight Ranch Event Center at 3 p.m. June 25. According to a news release from the organization, the event will feature a drag show, along with other local artists and vendors. Kenny Metcalf, performing as Elton John, will close the event. 

The event’s aim is to help the queer community celebrate each other, while fulfilling a vision of accepting and respecting the equality of everyone, officials with the Panhandle Pride group said during Tuesday’s event. The previous events have been hosted in city parks, including Memorial Park, but the 2020 and 2021 events were both canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Marcus Rogers, a representative of the Panhandle Pride organization, said during Tuesday’s event that around 3,000 to 3,500 people showed up to 2019’s festivities. The move to Starlight Ranch gives the event an opportunity to grow this year and into the future, including more areas for vendors and food trucks, along with multiple performance areas and better parking. 

“The specific reason why we chose Starlight Ranch and this partnership is we see a potential for growth,” Rogers said. “We see that so many members of the community are wanting to be involved with the queer community and we see the Starlight Ranch as the best possible venue to make sure that everyone who wants to attend Pride, can attend Pride.” 

Rogers stressed that this event is for every member of the community, not only members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“This event specifically is helping to connect the queer community with other individuals,” Rogers said. “I know it’s not as prevalent as say, in Dallas. But we are a strong community here in the Amarillo area and you can make connections here at the Pride event that you typically wouldn’t anywhere else. This is going to be specifically designed for families and for individuals just to attend and have a good time over the summer.” 

Mandy Morton, the president of the Panhandle Pride organization, said that this event serves as a time to celebrate the community as a whole. It also serves as a way to learn about the Amarillo LGBTQ+ community and the organizations that serve them, something that Morton saw firsthand. 

“The last time we produced a 2019 festival, there was somebody there who was very close to me who was learning. They sat quietly and they watched. They watched people interact. The one takeaway they had was ‘man, there’s so much love throughout this festival, walking and talking and just being who God created them to be at that point,’” Morton said. “…If you are willing to show up and to see and to be a part, we’re welcoming you with open arms. That’s all there is to it. It’s a good time to be who you are, whatever that may be, and to reach out and love one another. We’re in business together every day. We’re in church together. We are in all these places. Let’s come together in this venue and enjoy one another, enjoy the entertainment. I’m sure you will take away some education from that. Let’s just be a part.”

Being a part of this event is something that Bobby Lee, the co-owner of the Starlight Ranch Event Center, has wanted to do for a long time. 

“We’ve been wanting this event for years,” Lee said. “The entertainment they do, the attitude of the whole festival, it’s addicting. We’re proud to be a part of it. That’s what Starlight Ranch was made for.” 

A $5 donation to the organization is requested for admission into the family-friendly, and dog-friendly, event. The funds will ultimately go towards the organization and will be used for “continued growth in the organization and providing platforms education, entertainment and equality.” 

For more information about the Panhandle Pride organization, visit https://panhandleprideinc.org/