2021 South Dakota Pride Festivals You Need to Visit
Pride Festivals in South Dakota Worth Visiting
South Dakota is home to an estimated over 25,000 LGBTQIA+ community members ages 13+ as of 2020 according to LGBTQmap.org.
While South Dakota may not be the first place you think of as a pride festival destination, this state is making rainbow waves as pride festivals through the state are popping up.
South Dakota is home to a growing number of both new pride festivals and festival attendance.
Let’s deep dive into the top pride festivals in South Dakota worth visiting, how to get there and alllll the behind-the-scenes deets you need to know when you go. Plus, we'll drop a bonus festival you need to put on your 2022 calendar!
Sioux Falls Pride is the largest pride festival in the state with an estimated 15,000 attendees in 2019 (according to the last in-person pride festival before COVID). And back in 2019, the organization hosted the states first ever pride parade earning it some hefty recognition ranked the 2019 Sioux Falls Pride Festival as a top festival in the US to visit.
The 2019 pride festival featured a week-long party with pride events including drag bingo, an official after party on Saturday night with a headline performer, parade and festival featuring over 90 vendors and 8 food trucks.
Sioux Falls is easy to drive to as it’s located on the corridor of I-29 and I-90 or fly into as it’s the state's largest airport with multiple flights per day.
Sioux Falls Pride Festival offers a large city festival vibe, but you’re still able to find a parking spot and belly up to the bar for service, plus no long lines at the door for most events either. Most events are free to attend or at minimum have a $10 cover fee for after hours, 21+ events.
Word on the street is that the Sioux Falls Pride 2021 festival is set for June 26th, 2021 rumored to be held in downtown Sioux Falls complete with a pride parade! Sioux Falls President Matt Neufeld notes that the 2021 festival will be an in-person event with more details to come in the upcoming weeks.
Black Hills Pride is the second largest pride festival in the state and takes place in Rapid City against the breathtaking backdrop of the Black Hills.
This festival comes with an additional benefit. Everything festival (and I do mean everything) is within steps.
The hotel is the main hub for evening drag show events both held in the large conference room making it a perfect location for the weekend attendees looking for an easy way to stay, play and slay.
On Saturday, the pride in the park festival held steps away (the hotel and park share the same parking lot) starts in the late morning and lasts until mid-to-late afternoon. Pioneer Park is home to the festival currently and is surrounded by the beautiful Black Hills.
Getting to Rapid City is an easy drive and you can plan on the trip taking about 4.5 hour on I-90 if you’re headed from Sioux Falls. Remember, the speed limit in South Dakota on all interstates is 80 MPH so you’ll get there quickly provided no construction is happening along I-90.
There’s plenty to see along the route if you travel by car. Get out your phones (or camera) at Statue of Dignity in Chamberlain, the Badlands National Forest and of course Wall Drug.
If driving does not appeal to you, Rapid City Regional Airport has multiple flights per day and is a great alternative if you’d like to see the aerial view of the Black Hills!
The 2021 Black Hills Pride Festival has been set for Saturday, July 10th at Memorial Park in Rapid City, SD.
Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, is known for [some] crabby republicans crafting anti-trans bills, cattle country and King Ranch quad cab trucks with T**** bumper stickers. Don’t let the T**** stickers detour you as you’ll find a fair number of vehicles proud to support everything from women’s rights to Wall Drug.
Pierre is located smack in the middle of the state (seriously, check the South Dakota state map) and is home to two time zones. Oh and a growing LGBT community.
The 2018 Pierre Pride Festival included a Friday night drag show held at the Ramkota, a quaint vendor fair on Saturday (in the hotel conference room), drag bingo in the afternoon (in the hotel conference room) and wrapped up with a drag show (also in the same conference room).
The shows attract a modest crowd, but drag performers say they are the best tippers and attendees and performers experience a truly supportive and inclusive show that performers say the larger shows just can’t provide.
At the drag shows, you’ll see children tipping queens and kings while their proud parents/guardians on look. Seeing this interaction is symbolic of the winds of progression blowing and being present in these moments is a unique experience that’s beyond words.
Attendees are very thankful that the pride festival and performances were held indoors due to the heat and humidity. Pierre often experiences brutal weather this time of year so indoors is for sure a bonus. Seriously, at the 2018 PACE Pride Festival, the air conditioners at the hotel had a hard time keeping up with the heat and humidity.
After the drag shows, St. Charles is your place of choice where you’ll spot drag kings and queens, sip crafted drinks and admire the swanky decor.
Craving more than booze? In Pierre, you’ll need to make sure to get your grub on earlier than midnight.
In Pierre, restaurants close up shop around 10pm making getting a bite past midnight nearly impossible. If you’re willing to endure gas station food, head over the river into Ft. Pierre and hit up the only open gas station. Pierre and Ft. Pierre each go by different time zones - central and mountain time - so you’ll get a full 60 minutes by just crossing the bridge leaving you just enough time to score a sandwich, bag of chips and only a slight case of indigestion.
Recapping, the Pierre Pride Festival offers a unique experience to connect with vendors, entertainers and the community like only a small town pride festival in the capital of a red state can.
At the time of this article, no date has been set for a 2021 Pierre Area Pride Festival although I've heard murmur's of a Fall festival which would be amazing in my opinion.
Follow details for Pierre Area Pride on Facebook.
Vermilion Pride Festival // June 11-13th, 2021
Located about an hour South of Sioux Falls, Vermillion is home to the University of South Dakota and the Vermillion Pride festival.
The 2021 Vermillion Pride Festival kicks off June 11th with a drag show hosted by the fabulous Martina Shakers at the Dakota Brick House at 8pm.
Saturday festivities include speaker Dianna E. Anderson discussing 'The Perseverance of Transgender and Non-Binary People at the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library at 11am.
Continuing on, Vermillion Pride art show and craft fair will be held from 2pm - 4pm at the First Dakota Coyote Gallery.
Saturday events will close with a 7pm Pride Pub Parade at the Brick House.
On Sunday, June 13th at 11am, the festival concludes with the Vermillion Pride Church Service at Prentis Park.
Follow Vermillion Pride for the latest news and events.
A new South Dakota Pride festival recently announced is Aberdeen Pride festival noted to be held June 12th, 2021!
“It is a smaller event, since it is the first one, and we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said organizer Megan Snow. “The event will be held June 12 starting at 6 pm outside the Red Rooster Coffee House on Main Street in Aberdeen. The event kicks off with music, speakers and booths from LBGTQIA+ organizations.”
Drag show pre-game with pride karaoke kicking off at around 8 pm before the 21+ Drag Show lights it up at Slackers Bar.
I’m hesitant to call this a small drag show because the organizer mentions that 13 drag performers have committed to perform at the event with rather big names like Drag King Oliver Clozoff.
There is nothing like being front and center at a fresh pride festival drag show. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you need to put this on your calendar like yesterday and go. It’s a full body chills experience drinking in the emotion and success of a first festival event, but especially in a red state like South Dakota. Every dollar you raise up to tip is like raising your middle finger to homophobic and outdated mindsets.
Prior to the in-person event on July 12th, 20201, fundraising efforts were held to help pay for entertainment costs so if you feel like you want to help, but can’t make it, there are ways to support this amazing event through a t-shirt campaign and ‘Sponsor a Drag Performer’ fundraiser!
Coming to the festival? Pack your bags and head wayyyyyy North, like almost to the North Dakota border. When I searched for ‘where is Aberdeen, SD’ fifth on the auto pop list of searches was ‘where is Aberdeen pig farm.’ While not relevant to the festival, I found this absolutely hilarious, but not at ALL what I thought it was.
Getting back on the road, Aberdeen is approximately 125 northeast of Pierre and has a population of approximately 26,000 people. Officially the third most populous state, Aberdeen is prime for a pride festival and I’m super here for it.
Follow Aberdeen Pride on Facebook.
Watertown Pride Festival // June 26th, 2021
Set for June 26th in Watertown, SD, this free event (hosted by Watertown Love) will feature a vendor fair and entertainment in beautiful McKinley Park from 11am - 4pm.
Watertown is located about an hour and a half North of Sioux Falls on I-90 making it a super quick and easy drive.
2021 South Dakota Pride Festivals to Watch
Brookings Pride // TBD
Celebrating the week of October 26th - November 2nd, the festival will be in proud partnership with the Brookings Art Council according to festival organizer Charmaine Houck.
"Very open to vendors - the details are still being panned out; we are currently partnered with the Brookings Arts Council to host a week long open exhibition," adds Houck.
Follow Brookings Pride to updated on their upcoming 2021 festival.
SUX Pride [Bonus Mention]
While technically not in South Dakota, SUX Pride is absolutely worth a mention. Located in Sioux City, about an hour and 15 minutes from Sioux Falls, SUX Pride is a grassroots organization founded by Martina Shakers, a Queen entertainer and seasoned talent coordinator.
SUX Pride organization, which hosts the SUX Pride Festival held in early June, continues to grow as it was geared up to celebrate its 5th year in 2021.
The 2021 Festival was an amazingly attended event and held indoors (which we vendors totally appreciate). Dates for the 2022 SUX Pride Festival have already been set for June 3rd and 4th, 2022.
Click here to find SUX Pride on Facebook!
While South Dakota may not be the first place you think of as a pride festival destination, this state is making rainbow waves as it carves out pride festivals that are growing in attendance and making waves!
For more information, please visit the organizations website, follow them on social media and join their email lists to stay connected for upcoming events and pride festival updates!