MODESTO -- On Saturday, enthusiastic rainbow-clad Modestans of all ages showed up at Graceada Park to take part in the third annual MoPride Festival, a celebration of sexual diversity and equality that provides a gathering place for Modesto's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
This is MoPride's second year having a teen garden, a volunteer-run event set up by young people for young people. MoPride is the only pride festival in the state to have a section of the grounds reserved especially for teens.
This year's teen garden featured a hula-hooping area and an inflatable bungee run.
"The teen garden is something that keeps us all together; it gives us a fun space (for young people) to hang out, meet new people and have fun without having to deal with any kind of negative atmosphere," said Enochs senior Csilla Richmond, who was this year's Jr. MoPride team leader. "Next year, we're hoping to have our own music system and new activities planned throughout the day."
"(The garden) is a place for all of us to be together," said Taylor Wilson, a senior at Modesto High. "It's one thing to meet older people and learn from them
but it's a true bonding experience to meet other kids who are going through the exact same thing you are at the same time."
"It's a sanctuary for teens, where usually only young people are allowed," added Enochs senior Danielle Brown. "We're here to welcome anyone who ever felt like an outcast; we're all unique, we're all different, and we're very, very supportive."
The teen garden at MoPride is just one of many opportunities for Modesto's LGBT young people to connect. Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs have sprung up in a number of the city's high schools, and some centers have established youth groups such as The Place, a bimonthly meeting at the Congregational UCC Church on College Avenue. The Place is a secular support group that provides a safe space for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and questioning youth ages 14-20, as well as separate meetings for their parents.
"It's a bunch of different people from all different places coming together to celebrate their uniqueness and create a community," said Brown. "Pride is about being confident in who you are and finding a community that accepts you with open arms."
Representatives from The Place appeared at MoPride to hand out pamphlets and promote awareness of this unique opportunity for local LGBT youth.
"Pride to me is just love" said teen garden volunteer J.T. Verdugo, a senior at Ceres High. "Loving everyone, everywhere."
Annie Mathews is a senior at Gregori High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.