Jyka Carnas remembers the White House illumined with rainbow colors in 2015.

The colors shone as an acknowledgment of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states.

“The rights that we have today is because the hard work of people before us,” said the Miami Beach transplant who now resides in North Myrtle Beach and one of the attendees of Pride in the Park held Saturday at The Market Common.

“Our rights are not guaranteed,” he said. “They’ve got to be fought for everyday.”

The Myrtle Beach festival was held the first day of LGBT Pride Month and was organized by Grand Strand PRIDE and Coastal Business Guild.

Attendees flocked to Valor Park, where they could listen to live music, get some food or drinks or browse vendor stands, where items like rainbow-colored lanyards were given out.

Some who attended rocked shirts with phrases like “Love not hate” on them, got temporary tattoos of the LGBT pride flag or engaged in hula hooping.

“It’s nice to have something for us,” said Lauren Unice of Myrtle Beach, an Arizona native who rocked a rainbow cape. 

Organizer Craig McGee said the festivities aligned with Grand Strand PRIDE’s goal.

“In our mission statement, one of our biggest items is inclusion and visibility,” said McGee, who is on its board and is the chair of Coastal Business Guild.

“We think that [when] there’s more visibility, there’s more acceptance,” he added, “and we want our supporting businesses to be more visible and the LGBT community in Myrtle Beach to be more visible.”

Grand Strand PRIDE was founded in the 2000s, with its happy hour aiming to allow LGBT professionals to network, McGee said. Eventually, it evolved into a nonprofit organization.

Saturday’s festival was also home to this year’s Coastal Business Guild Expo.

“It’s just a day for people to come out and celebrate who they are,” McGee said.

Pride in the Park also commemorated the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City.

Terry Livingston, one of Grand Strand PRIDE’s founders, said that on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn. Fed up with their harassment, he added, patrons and others resisted.

“Many people consider the Stonewall riots as the tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the U.S.,” Livingston said.

Thus, June has been declared LGBT Pride Month to commemorate that defiance.

McGee said the first Gay Pride march in the country was held in New York City a year after the riots and inspired others to also parade.

Livingston invited the crowd to reflect on how things have changed in the last five decades. “Times were very different then,” he said of 1969.

“Is there more work we need to liberate our nation? Absolutely,” he added, “but communities are always evolving, striving to be better.”

Naho Flores of Myrtle Beach said the festival made her feel included.

“Having something like this makes me feel good,” she said, “to know things are changing for the better.”

Livingston said his advice to those in attendance could be summed up in two words: be nice.

“And one more message to the LGBTQ community and especially our youth,” he continued. “Remember the message from 50 years ago. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Instead, be full of pride. The sky’s the limit on what you can accomplish.”

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I'm a reporter for the Myrtle Beach Herald. Want something covered? Call me at 843-488-7258.

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