After being held virtually last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Twin Cities Pride Festival this year will welcome participants in person at a number of events starting next month and extending into July.

The annual multiday celebration of the LGBTQ community, one of the largest such festivals in the country, will include a nighttime party, a family fun day and a 5K run spread over two weekends in late June. Most events will be free.

But the popular two-day daytime festival in Loring Park, which is normally held the same weekend as the other events and draws a large, tightly packed crowd, has been pushed to July this year as an extra precaution.

"You cannot go to Pride without hugging 12 people at least," said Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride.

The usual march won't be held, partly because its celebratory mood didn't seem appropriate in the wake of George Floyd's death, according to the event's web page, and also because the necessary advance preparations weren't possible with COVID restrictions still uncertain.

Other activities are being held either in spacious outdoor settings or indoors with masks.

Minnesota's LGBTQ community has been gathering since 1972, when a few dozen people marched on Nicollet Mall to mark the third anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings, a rebellion against the police raid of a gay bar in New York City that propelled the gay rights movement.

Over the years, the Pride Festival has grown into a free, multiday festival that attracts families and corporate sponsors and raises money to support Twin Cities Pride, as well as other nonprofit organizations for LGBTQ people and people of color. More than 350,000 people attended in 2019.

A new fundraising gala, the MASKqueerade Party, will be held on June 17 at two in-person locations — the Granada Theater in Minneapolis and the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. Masks will be required for safety ("yours will be super blinged out, so you'll want to let it shine!" says a Facebook page). Featuring music, comedy and a drag show, the party will be livestreamed online; a limited number of tickets for in-person attendance, and an unlimited number for online access, will be available on the event's website.

On June 20, Pride Family Fun Day at the Como Park East Pavilion in St. Paul will offer hot dogs and other refreshments as well as games for kids. Face masks are optional. The event is free and open to anyone, but attendees are asked to RSVP on the event's Facebook page. The 5K Rainbow Run will be held June 27 on Boom Island Park in Minneapolis.

The popular daytime Twin Cities Pride Festival will be held July 17-18 in Loring Park. That event, which welcomes all LGBTQ people and allies, features food courts, a beer garden, music stages and vendors.

Sponsors include large companies and organizations such as Wells Fargo, Xfinity, Medtronic and AARP. Vendors can register beginning this week, and people of color as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are encouraged to participate.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583

Twitter: @Katy_Read