The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that took place in October of 1987 drew 500,000 participants, including a contingent from Kansas City. The energy from that event resonated with attendees long after it was over, leading to a resurgence in political activism and awareness-building across the country. Locally, the March led to the formation of the Pink Triangle Political Coalition in early 1988, and within that organization a committee called Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA) was created that would be directly responsible for organizing local Pride events.
When the decision was made to host a Pride event, GALA had only two months of planning time. One of the fundraisers they held was a “Button Nite”, at which Pride buttons were given to people who donated at least $1. Participating bars included The Windjammer, Kon Tiki, Frisco, Jamie’s, The Other Side, Changes, and Twylite Zone.
The Gay and Lesbian Awareness Picnic was held in June of 1988 in Southmoreland Park, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Approximately 150-200 people from Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis were in attendance.
They were entertained by pianist Scott Hegenbart and the musical group Rosie’s Bar and Grill. Local activist and future City Council member Carol Coe gave a powerful speech on the influence of gay people in politics.
Community play was encouraged by the presence of volleyball and a water balloon toss.
Though small by today’s standards, the 1988 Gay and Lesbian Awareness Picnic reinvigorated the local community and set the stage for much larger community-based celebrations over the next few years.