NORFOLK, Neb. — On Saturday, Norfolk Area Pride Fest held their third event and officials with the event said they have seen an increase in support and awareness after last week’s executive order from Gov. Jim Pillen.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community in northeast Nebraska gathered at the annual Pride Fest.

Norfolk Area Pride treasurer Daniel Vosburg said events like the festival give people a chance to be surrounded by a supporting community.

“And just to see people come out here, be themselves, be who they are, and seeing those smiles, is what makes it always worth it,” Vosburg said.

Norfolk Area Pride Vice President Jen Ippensen said because of recent decisions in local and state government, the event takes on more meaning.

“With the state and local legislation and policies that are being made, it’s so important for us to show the queer and, especially the trans community, that we are here [and] they are loved and supported,” Ippensen said.

At the Aug. 13 Norfolk Public Schools board meeting, the board voted to enforce policy 5301 which limits NPS students to compete at their sex assigned at birth.

On Aug. 31, Gov. Pillen signed an executive order which defined a person’s sex as male or female at birth.

Grant Friedman, a legal fellow at the ACLU of Nebraska, said pride events look to promote a safe place for Nebraskans in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“The executive order sent a message to Nebraskans that trans people don’t belong," Friedman said. “And I think the ACLU and all of the organizations at present at prides like this are working very hard to counter that message by showing that trans Nebraskans belong [and] the whole LGBTQ community is welcome here.”

The theme for this year’s pride fest was “This is Me” and Ippensen said the theme was centered around supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Everyone belongs," Ippensen said. “You can be yourself and you are loved. So we want to, especially at this time, affirm, support, and celebrate our trans community members.”