HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) The first annual Harrison Pride Festival is being held Saturday at Minnie Harris park in downtown Harrison. It was organized in the wake of the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
It's day in the park for LGBTQ people in Harrison Arkansas to be supported by family and loved ones, as they show their pride.
"Seeing everyone out here in the spirit of love and friendship and free hugs and face paint, it's a good thing for the community," says Mickie Allen, a Harrison resident.
The event is raising money for One Orlando, a fund that is supporting victims of the mass shooting and their families. But the Harrison event is also historic for gay, lesbian, and transgender people across north Arkansas.
"I see people finally feeling, especially in this community, like they have a place to be. See people holding hands that maybe wouldn't feel comfortable doing it in other places, and I've seen those people be embraced by other people. So I think it's a feeling of belonging maybe in a place where you never felt you did," says Allen.
There's live music, family-friendly activities, vendors, and a pastor who preached about salvation, love, and acceptance.
However, across the street, the Arkansas League of the South organized a protest against pride fest.
"It doesn't matter if 5 men in black robes in Washington D.C. say homosexuality is acceptable; the word of God says it's not, and to be quite simple, the vast majority of people here in Harrison believe it's not," says R.G. Miller, chairman of the Arkansas League of the South.
The League of the South wants southern states to separate from the USA. The organization claims there is a "cultural genocide" against white Christians in America. Some in the protest stood with mean-spirited, insulting signs which KY3 will neither show on air nor print. Most of the signs being held read "Support Christian Marriage."
The League of the South calls LGBT people degenerates, sodomites, perverts and even more vulgar insults while saying they stand for traditional Christian values.
Father Jason Rice, who says he pastors an Anglican Church in another northern Arkansas town, says he stood with the protesters despite the vulgar signs because he said he, "hates the sin, not the sinners."
"People are free to assemble, it doesn't mean I agree with any one particular person out here, what I do agree with is the traditional Christian values," said Rice.
The folks at pride fest try to ignore the insults, while Harrison Police protect the peace.
"Personally it didn't phase me. I mean everybody's got their freedom of expression, they've got their significant choice of words, and I've got love, acceptance, community, that kind of thing," says Alexx Breedlove, one of the organizers of Pride Fest.
"Maybe you're not so sure what it looks like over here, but you can kinda see what it looks like over there. I think we look like we're having a better time," says Allen.