MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a two-year wait, Twin Cities Pride Festival activities will begin next week. But this year will be different.

As WCCO found out, the future of Pride beyond this summer is in the balance.

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The sights, the sounds and the energy of Twin Cities Pride will soon return to Minneapolis.

“It’s one of the very first large events in the Twin Cities this year since COVID and people are ready to come out and celebrate,” Twin Cities Pride Director Dot Belstler said.

But celebrating will be different this year. Even though COVID is easing up, there will be no parade, large concert or fireworks.

“This year we really didn’t have enough time to plan for the parade or Pride march,” Belstler said.

They will have the two-day festival with food and vendors and drag shows. Something else that’s new is that typically Pride goes hand-in-hand with alcohol, but this year there’s a different kind of event.

Chris Durant, who’s 22 years sober, will perform at the first Sober and Proud karaoke and dance party June 25.

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“Being an addict or an alcoholic, we come from feeling like we are worth nothing, that our life is worth nothing, so we are basically killing ourselves,” Durant said. “So now we get to celebrate being sober, being part of life and living life.”

It’s a free event to anyone, guests are asked to come sober and ready for fun and RSVP if possible.

Another first will be next Thursday’s Grand Marshal gala event, that will honor two well-known faces in the fight against COVID: ASL interpreter Nic Zapko and Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

For the first time they will charge to attend that event — $100 for an in-person ticket, $15 for a virtual ticket — so that the party can go on and on.

“After not having events in 2020 we are really kind of scraping the bottom of our funds and in order to be here next year, we really need to raise the funds this year,” Belstler said.

The main two-day festival on July 17 and 18 will still be free.

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Minneapolis Police will not be working the event. Instead it will be patrolled by Park Police and private security.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield