ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — After a two year absence following St. John United Church of Christ’s first Pride Month Picnic, the church resumed the celebration Saturday.

The picnic, first hosted in 2019, involved plenty of food: burgers, dogs and snow cones. As well as games, raffles and local LGBTQ-friendly organizations.

“I think pride is first and foremost a celebration,” said Pastor Rachel Kirk. ” So we’re celebrating that we got to be who we are, the freedom that we have and anyone who who wants to help us in affirming that that freedom.”

Kirk says she is glad to see so many people coming together in unity and celebration.

“There are a lot of organizations within Freeport and Stephenson County that do support LGBTQ people,” she said. “There are lots of people who want to support LGBTQ people and celebrate us together. And I think it’s important to be visible and to be a voice of love instead of a voice of hate like the ones we so often hear.”

Shawn Killingbeck attended the picnic in 2019, and says he is happy to see it return.

“I just couldn’t wait to get this thing going again,” he said. “It just brings a lot of peace and hope to how I feel.”

Killingbeck hopes the event continues for years to come, and if the response is positive, there could be plans to expand the picnic to Rockford.