Pride in the Park celebrates love; small group of protesters raise concerns

Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 6:29 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2023 at 10:11 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – An LGBTQ+ organization held an event on Saturday in Myrtle Beach that was met with some backlash.

Pride Myrtle Beach put on the 3rd Annual Pride in the Park Festival at Valor Park in the Market Common.

Organizers said the festival’s goal is to provide a sense of community and a day about spreading love.

“Love conquers hate,’” said Myrtle Beach Resident, Joe P.

Not only was there food, music and camaraderie, but it was also a way to connect people to vital resources like healthcare in the LGBTQ+ community.

In the days leading up to the event, Pride Myrtle Beach said it dealt with hateful messages from some people in the community.

According to screenshots seen on the organization’s Instagram story, one resident said she called the city to complain about the event’s drag queens.

RELATED COVERAGE | Pride Myrtle Beach faces backlash over weekend festival at Valor Park

During the event on Saturday, a small group of protesters held signs outside of the festival. Most of the signs and shirts pointed toward protecting children stating, “Don’t drag kids into this.”

“What makes this so important to have children there? We’re not against drag queens, we’re only against drag queens performing in front of children,” said Graham Dickinson, a Myrtle Beach resident.

Meanwhile, Craig McGee, the president and CEO of Pride Myrtle Beach, said the Pride in the Park event is meant to educate and counter stereotypes and misconceptions that some people may have about the LGBTQ+ community.

“We don’t really want anyone to be anyone other than who they are, so we don’t bypass anyone, we let people be themselves,” McGee said. “That’s the purpose of holding a space like this where people can come out and 100% feel comfortable with being their self.”

Among the small group of protestors was South Carolina Sate Representative District 10 (R) Thomas Beach.

Beach stated he is sponsoring the “Defend Children’s Innocence Act.”

“This bill is designed to protect children from lewd and explicit activity that would be found in a drag queen show,” he said.

One concerned mom, Ashley Muir, also shared her thoughts outside of the event.

“Once this bill gets passed, legally, in the state of South Carolina, no drag queen show will be seen fit for children 18 and under,” she said.

During the festival, the president of South Strand Pride of Pawleys Island, Joseph Ledford, shared his take on what he claimed where misconceptions.

“It’s not like it’s a lifestyle, it’s not brainwashing kids, this is something who people inherently are,” Ledford explained.

Ledford also said South Strand Pride has been a scholarship foundation aiming to benefit folks primarily in Georgetown County, where last year three scholarships were awarded to graduating seniors among the six Georgetown County high schools.

The Myrtle Beach Police Department confirmed that several protesters were escorted out during the event, but no arrests were made.