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Hundreds of Mobilians to attend city’s Pride-themed ArtWalk despite recent backlash

The city of Mobile is hosting its Pride-themed LODA ArtWalk this Friday despite recent criticism from citizens.

The free monthly event is in Mobile’s Lower Dauphin Arts District off Dauphin Street. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. with a pop-up portrait session at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center.

Other businesses including JPAR Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras and More Gift Shop, Oyster City Brewing, Mobile Arts Council, Side Street Studios, Sophiella Gallery and The Haunted Book Shop will offer additional art exhibits and viewings.

The event will formally begin at 6 p.m. with live music and various outdoor vendors. It will culminate in a Pride parade starting at 7:30 p.m. at local gay bar and nightclub B-Bob’s Downtown and drag performance in Cathedral Square at 8 p.m.

 Map for upcoming LODA ArtWalk on June 9th in Mobile
Mobile Arts Council
Map for upcoming LODA ArtWalk on June 9th in Mobile

Jerry Ehlen is the owner of B-Bob’s Downtown. He said the ArtWalk is an opportunity for many Alabamians to express themselves.

“This is a walking parade that goes through downtown,” he said. “Wear something colorful. Be yourself. Usually, we walk past a bunch of restaurants that have outdoor seating. People are cheering and clapping, so it’s very uplifting. This is surprising for the Deep South [and] Alabama. It’s pretty inspiring.”

The city of Mobile made the decision to incorporate Pride Month into June’s ArtWalk three years ago. Ehlen said the reaction from citizens back then was generally positive.

“From my understanding, it was very positive,” he said. “The amount of people that showed up in support was phenomenal. It was one of the biggest ArtWalks to date at that point. They’re anticipating it to be a large turnout again this year.”

Mobile Arts Council

But not every Mobilian is happy about the event. Five residents outwardly opposed the inclusion of drag performers in the ArtWalk at the latest Mobile City Council meeting on Tuesday.

“A drag queen show is scheduled in a city park… where children can be present. Drag queens should not be interacting with children in any part of a public city-supported event,” said one citizen in a memo to the city council.

Another citizen expressed similar feelings.

“[The] city is allowing drag queens in [a] park,” they said. “Kids shouldn’t [be] exposed to this.”

Click here to view more statements posted on the Mobile City Council Agenda for Tuesday, June 6th.

This comes after Alabama legislators’ failed attempt to ban public drag performances in the state this past legislative session. House Bill 401 would have revised Alabama’s existing obscenity law to outlaw drag performances in schools, libraries and other public spaces. The legislation was introduced to the state’s House of Representatives on April 27th, but it never made it out of the Alabama House.

Nevertheless, the city of Mobile decided to continue with its ArtWalk and still allow public drag performances.

Ehlen said despite all the outrage, this event is one of celebration.

“It’s just a celebration of being who you are,” he said. “It’s a positive impact. People who are not out all the time turn out for this. I know people who only come out once or twice a year who show up for this. It gives them an opportunity, and it’s early enough in the evening that a large cross-section of the community comes out. You see a lot of people. It’s like a big reunion.”

 B-Bob's Downtown in Mobile
B-Bob's Downtown

Ehlen said the city of Mobile saw roughly 1,500 visitors at the first Pride-themed LODA ArtWalk, and roughly one-third of these visitors stopped by B-Bob’s Downtown. He anticipates the same size crowd to attend this year.

“There is just so much happiness,” he said. “Walking through the parade, you see so many people applauding and screaming and supporting. There’s a lot of love out there. That’s probably my favorite part. My expectation is that it will be similar to what it was the last two years, where there’s just a bunch of people out showing support and having a good time.”

Visitors interested in participating in this month’s ArtWalk should expect to walk about a mile to and from the major events. More information on the event’s location, participating vendors and venues and featured artists can be found on Mobile Arts Council’s website at

Visitors can also text “EVENTS” to 91896 for text message notifications about the ArtWalk.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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