This year will be the seventh one to see a PrideFest in Springfield, celebrating the local LGBTQ+ community through food, entertainment and fun. This year there's the new addition of a parade to kick off the event, and its Grand Marshal is Angelica Sanchez - the drag queen who was the lead performer at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
It was nearly a year ago when a gunman unleashed the hell of what was the most deadly single-shooter mass shooting in U.S. history. Sanchez was on the patio of the club when the gunfire began to ring out. She was not able to make it outside through the congested exits, and went into a dressing room, taking six others along with her, likely saving their lives. The door had a key-code and could only be opened by those who knew it. Sanchez and the others waited for hours in fear as they quietly called loved ones on their phones and prayed.
Pulse nightclub has yet to relocate or reopen, and the aftermath of the shooting is something Sanchez says she's still adjusting to. Sanchez has been awarded titles like Miss Gay USofA and Miss Continental Plus - both major accolades in the national drag community. She says she won't let what happened at Pulse deter her from the career she was called to 20 years ago. "Trying to get people to be happy and laugh and smile ... it's really helped me to heal throughout all of this."
Angelica Sanchez will lead off the PrideFest parade in Springfield this Saturday at 11am. She performs on the main stage during the fest's drag show which starts at 8pm - and will headline at Club Station House after PrideFest activities wrap up.