Blaise Richburg '26 (left) and Zoe Miller '26 (right) play a trivia game at Lehigh's Prida-a-Palooza in Grace Hall on April 12. The Pride Center hosts the event and has an extensive staff to help make the event inclusive and accessible for all students. (Elise Grass/B&W Staff)

Pride-A-Palooza kicks off Campus Pride Month


Strings of pride flags hung from the ceiling of Grace Hall April 12, with nearly 20 tables of games and activities lining the floor below. Splashes of pink appeared across the room from the bright shirts worn by Lehigh’s Pride Center staff.

This event was the Pride Center’s fifth annual Pride-A-Palooza — hosted in support of the LGBTQ+ community and open to all Lehigh students, faculty and staff. With its inviting, carnival-esque atmosphere, Pride Center Coordinator Mel Kitchen said Pride-A-Palooza is a way to kick off Pride Month celebrations on campus.

Former President Bill Clinton officially declared June as Pride Month in 2000.

But across the country, April has been deemed Campus Pride Month. Since most schools are not in session during National Pride Month, it’s common for schools to plan events in April to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community on their campuses.

Kitchen said Pride-A-Palooza is primarily planned and managed by student staff members at the Pride Center.

Sonja Hackenmueller, ‘26, said this was her first year on staff at the center. She worked on marketing, outreach and bringing together more volunteers for Pride-A-Palooza.

After winter break, the Pride Center student staff broke up into committees to plan the event, each taking responsibility for individual roles.

“It’s been really interesting to see how much work goes into it,” Hackenmueller said. “The logistics of it are a lot different than you’d expect, and there’s so much effort that goes into every little thing.”

Pride-A-Palooza began at 4 p.m. with a DJ playing upbeat music. About 30 minutes in, Lehigh a cappella group A Whole Step Up performed.

The event closed at around 7 p.m. with an anticipated drag queen performance.

The event included information tables featuring education resources from advocacy and community organizations, including the Eastern PA Trans Equity Project, the Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley, the Trinity Episcopal Church and Novus Bethlehem.

Kitchen said this was the second year the Pride Center partnered with organizations within the Lehigh Valley.

“We’d like to keep developing our community partners both on campus and outside Lehigh because they’ve all been wonderful,” Kitchen said.

Hackenmueller said it’s important for students to feel supported and comfortable being themselves. She said it doesn’t matter if one is private about how they identify because anyone is welcome to attend events hosted by the Pride Center.

Hackenmueller also said she thinks it’s important to have visibility for different identities on campus and for people who want to celebrate them to know it’s an option.

Mia Miranda, ‘25, is the social chair of Students Promoting Equity, Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK), an undergraduate group run through the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The group consists of peer educators who work to teach students about topics related to gender and sexuality.

Miranda staffed her own table at the event where attendees could play a game to learn more about gender, sexuality and how to be an ally.

She said Pride-A-Palooza is a good way to have students learn about the different cultures within clubs on campus.

“I think events like this are good at bridging a gap between students who identify as queer and students who aren’t a part of the community to find things that they both have in common,” Miranda said.

In past years, Pride-A-Palooza took place on STEPS Lawn. However, due to weather conditions, it was held indoors this year. Kitchen said approximately 400 people attended last year, so the center worked carefully this year to ensure enough space, food and resources for anyone who attended.

“Our focus is love and activism,” Kitchen said. “That’s our theme, and we really just want to welcome everybody.”

Future pride events on campus include an official drag show featuring Alexis Mateo, a contestant from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” coming April 20.

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