BELLEVILLE, IL - Metro East Pride of Southwestern Illinois (MEPSI), organizers of the annual Pride celebration held in Belleville each June, held a public meet and greet at Club Escapade on Sunday to introduce its 2015 Board of Directors, share plans for the coming year and make one very special announcement.


After a years-long application process, MEPSI president Adam Kaemmerer told the crowd that the organization was officially a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Illinois and that the designation was back-dated by the state to August 11, 2010.


"This will be opening up some major doorways for our organization," said Kaemmerer. "We're growing, we're getting bigger and I'm really excited for this year. It's going to be amazing."


MEPSI was founded in 2008 with the vision of marrying the festive LGBT Pride celebration with Main Street U.S.A. While the annual event has grown substantially over the years, it still retains the intimate feel of the smaller town celebration and has proven a draw for LGBT revelers from both sides of the river


"We have great, great things in store for this festival year," Kaemmerer explained. "We've been working really hard and have some amazing events already scheduled for the beginning of the year. We're bringing back a few events that everyone enjoyed."


"We're bringing about some old changes as well as some new things," said Board member Sarah Sowell. "We are bringing things back home to Club Escapade this year. We will be doing things with Bubby and Sissy's; they are a part of our Metro East community as well; but most of our fundraising will be coming out of Club Escapade. We're very happy to be bringing it back home this year."


Club Escapade owners Rick Hembree and Harold Schwartz were the recipients of the 2011 Metro East Pride Brenda Grissom and Dixie Ruliffson Community Service Award. The couple were instrumental in the founding of the organization along with Jessie Arms.


Upcoming MEPSI fundraisers include a Drag Review on Sat., Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. and a Date Auction on Sat., Feb. 7 at 10 p.m. Both events will be held at Club Escapade in Belleville.


Metro East PrideFest 2015 will be held on Saturday, June 20 from noon-10 p.m. on historic West Main street one block from the fountain. MEPSI announced they will again be hosting an official wedding ceremony in a special chapel area. Interested couples should apply for their Illinois marriage license beforehand per state law. Organizers also announced that the Main stage would return to second street to better work with crowd flow.


The 2014-2015 MEPSI Board of Directors are: Adam Kaemmerer, president; Jason Lewis, vice president, Josh Holmgren, treasurer; Chris Dixon, secretary; and director's Janet Schmidt, Sarah Sowell and Roy Ziegler.


Schmidt serves as alderwoman for the City of Belleville representing Ward 2 along with Dorothy Meyer, who was also in attendance on Sunday.


A new MEPSI website is currently under construction. For more information on Metro East Pride and early vendor details for PrideFest 2015 please email metroeastpride "at" or call Sarah Sowell at 618-401-4678.



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