LGBT History Month Educational Displays Up

The 2016 LGBT History Month library display can be see throughout south central Indiana.
The 2016 LGBT History Month library display can be see throughout south central Indiana.

October is LGBT History Month, a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. To further our mission of educating the public about rural lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people and issues in order to make our community a safer and more welcoming place, Spencer Pride, Inc., annually distributes educational displays that feature information about LGBTQI history. This year’s displays, with the theme of “LGBT People in U.S. Political History” were developed and created by creative and talented volunteers from Prism Youth Community – Bloomington.

The display can be found at a record number of libraries, public schools, and community organizations this year, continuing Spencer Pride’s trend of making each year’s distribution bigger than the last.  Distribution of this year’s displays is a widespread 23 locations–including 13 separate communities, 9 counties, 16 libraries, 3 high schools, & 3 universities.

The 2016 displays can be found at the following locations:

  • Bedford Public Library (Bedford)
  • Bloomington North High School (Bloomington)
  • Bloomington South High School (Bloomington)
  • Bloomfield Eastern Greene County Library (Bloomfield) – poster only; no educational display
  • Brazil Public Library (Brazil)
  • Brown County Public Library (Nashville)
  • DePauw University, Roy O. West Library (Greencastle)
  • Edgewood High School (Ellettsville)
  • Indiana University, GLBT Student Support Services (Bloomington)
  • Indiana University, Herman B. Wells Library (Bloomington)
  • Indiana University, School of Public Health (1025 E. 7th Street, Bloomington)
  • Knox County Public Library (Vincennes)
  • Linton Public Library (Linton)
  • Mitchell Community Public Library (Mitchell)
  • Monroe County History Center (Bloomington)
  • Monroe County Public Library (Bloomington)
  • Monroe County Public Library (Ellettsville)
  • Morgan County Public Library (Martinsville) – NOVEMBER only
  • Owen County Public Library (Spencer)
  • Putnam County Public Library (Greencastle)
  • Spencer Pride community center & Unity retail shop (Spencer)
  • Vincennes University Library (Vincennes)
  • Worthington Jefferson Township Library (Worthington)

We are very appreciative of the volunteers at Prism Youth Community – Bloomington for their outstanding work in creating this year’s displays.  We are also thankful for the many school administrators, librarians, and other professionals who have supported having our displays in their establishments, and commend those who added to our display with books, posters, and other educational materials to encourage further learning and discussion. We hope you will visit some of these locations to learn a bit more about LGBT folks in politics throughout history.

Another “Night at the Tivoli” in Celebration of LGBT History Month

SPI Tivoli Logo 2014SPENCER, INDIANA – The historic Tivoli Theater in downtown Spencer will again be the site of Spencer Pride’s annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender (LGBT) History Month event “A Night at the Tivoli.” The community event, which is admission-free thanks to generous sponsors of Spencer Pride, Inc., is Wednesday, October 12th, at 7:00 PM. The public is welcomed and encouraged to attend.

“We are again privileged to hold our event at the beautiful Tivoli Theater,” says Spencer Pride Inc.’s, President Jonathan Balash.

The main attraction for the evening is always the movie. In honor of this election year, this year’s film is Milk. A 2008 biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The evening also includes a Jeopardy Contest on GLBT people in politics, so study up, check out your local library display, and win a prize! It will be an interesting and fun way for the audience to learn more about our community in political history. Another way to win is to take a chance on our raffle! With fabulous items like an overnight stay at French Lick Resort including breakfast for two, you won’t want to miss it.

Owen Valley Winery will have their tasting room open to lure filmgoers into sampling their wine. The winery’s tasting room is adjacent to the Tivoli and will be open from 5:30PM-10:00 PM. For this event, alcohol can be taken from the winery into the theater. The tasting room will undoubtedly be a popular spot.

Many individuals and businesses are sponsoring “A Night at the Tivoli,” including Greencastle Walmart, White River Valley PFLAG, Insurance Pros, Foxy Mutts Grooming, and many others who have made generous donations to ensure that the event remains admission-free.

In addition to the family-friendly Tivoli event, Spencer Pride, Inc., is coordinating LGBT History Month educational displays in a record-breaking (23) twenty-three libraries, public schools, universities, and other community organizations in Greene, Putnam, Lawrence, Owen, Monroe, Brown, Clay, and Knox counties. This is the seventh year that the organization has offered educational displays to libraries for LGBT History Month, and it is the fourth year that those displays will also appear in area schools and universities. Prism Youth Community-Bloomington aided the development of this year’s displays.

For the first time in our history, we’re able to say that our new retail space, Unity, at 46 E. Market St. on the courthouse square will be open from 5PM to 7PM. Stop in before the event and check out the many items hand made by local artists. It’s not too early to get some holiday shopping in.

For more information about Spencer Pride Inc., please visit other pages on our website or send questions to You can also find us on Facebook (SpencerPride) & Twitter (@SpencerPrideInc).

commUnity center Grand Opening a Huge Success

unity-frontThis past weekend, the Spencer Pride commUnity center and its shop, Unity, officially opened it’s doors to the public.  The Grand Opening celebration was intentionally timed to coincide with the annual Apple Butter Festival in Spencer.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony, coordinated by the Owen County Chamber of Commerce, took place at 9 AM on Saturday.  Although it had been raining all morning, the sky cleared in perfect time for the ceremony, which was very well attended by the public.  Most of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors was in attendance, as was many of our loyal volunteers.

The Owen County Chamber of Commerce presented Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash with a plaque to commemorate the event and to recognize the 10 years of service that Spencer Pride has provided to the community.

Immediately following the ribbon-cutting, excited attendees flooded into the center to explore the many fantastic items for sale and to learn about our new facility.  The CommUnity Center remained quite crowded throughout the entire day.  5-8 Spencer Pride volunteers were present at all times.  Thankfully, we have so many dedicated volunteers that most people were able to take shifts of 3-4 hours in length.

On Sunday the day started and finished rather slow, but this was not unexpected.  Based on our experiences at the Apple Butter Festival in the past, Sunday is typically a low traffic day.  That being said, we were quite busy mid-day.

Overall, we had nearly triple the number of attendees that we expected.  We also exceeded our sales expectations.   Individuals in attendance couldn’t stop complimenting our space and thanking us for what we have done for our community.

We are absolutely thrilled and grateful to our community for having embraced the opening of our commUnity center with such passion and excitement.

Downtown Diversity Expanding with Unity

commUnity center with signAnother shop is about to arrive on the square in downtown Spencer.   Unity is a distinctive retail store located within the Spencer Pride CommUnity Center at 46 E. Market Street, right across from the Owen County Courthouse & just a few buildings down from the newly relocated Sweet Owen Visitors Center.

The historic building that houses Unity, which is over 125 years old, serves as the perfect environment for the establishment.  The interior design of the space evokes a strong sense of the past, yet will appeal to the most modern of sensibilities.  Products are displayed in both century old displays as well as modern glass cabinets.

At Unity, visitors can expect to find unique gifts for friends & family – & for themselves, too! Merchandise is all high-quality & locally-produced.  Featured items include jewelry, art, stained glass, hand-made fashion accessories, pottery, & much more.  “Spotlights” – biographical signage that features the artist/craftsman involved with the items on display – are prominently posted in each display to help connect potential customers with the individuals that produced the products.

“We want everyone to know who is making the products, why & how the artist became involved in their craft, & why they’ve chosen to sell their products here,” said Jacob Balash, Unity’s retail manager & longtime Spencer Pride volunteer.

“It’s important that our customers understand the quality of the products & the significance of their purchase here at Unity,”

Although there will certainly be many consistent product themes at the store, the inventory will be constantly evolving. Many of the items for sale are one-of-a-kind or are available in very limited supply.  The unpredictability of the merchandise will keep Unity an exciting place to visit.  Even individuals who aren’t looking to make a purchase will still appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the products on display.

1Each purchase at Unity supports local artists & craftsmen. Profits all support the educational mission of Spencer Pride.

Balash is one of many volunteers who have spent a significant amount of time preparing Unity and the entire Spencer Pride CommUnity Center for its upcoming debut to the public. In fact, all of the work that Spencer Pride does is done entirely through volunteerism – Unity is no exception to that.

Debbie Messer, local resident and volunteer at Unity, is excited about her work with the organization. “I’m relatively new to the Spencer community and have found my forever family in Spencer Pride!” Messer said enthusiastically.  She has been a part of the committee focused on getting Unity up and running in time for the annual Apple Butter Festival in downtown Spencer.

Preparing a new store & center has not been easy, but volunteers are confident that their efforts are helping Spencer Pride achieve its mission. Spencer Pride, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization focused on educating the public about the rural LGBTQI community in order to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.  The organization educates through direct engagement with the public.  Spencer Pride consists of more than 30 active volunteers who have a deep passion for community betterment. Many more volunteers assist with the various events and activities coordinated by the organization throughout the year.

Dana Beth Evans, Director of the Monroe County History Center, has also been heavily involved in crafting the operational strategy for the new store. .

“I can’t tell you how please I am to be a part of this organization,” she stated.

“What we are doing with Spencer Pride is making a real difference in this community and what we are about to do with Unity – well, that’s going to give us many more opportunities to make a further impact.”

Evans is on the Spencer Pride Board of Directors and served as the Director of the Tivoli Theatre from 2013 until 2015.

Greg Bukowski has also volunteered with Spencer Pride and has had a role in establishing Unity as well.

“What I love about this store and organization is that it’s so much more than the LGBT community. It’s about all communities and uniting them together in an exciting way.  That’s why we chose Unity as the name,” Bukowski said.

CommUnity Center Logo JPGThe Spencer Pride CommUnity Center & Unity shop Grand Opening Event will take place on Saturday, September 17th, from 9 AM until 6 PM & on Sunday, September 18th, from 9 AM until 3 PM.

Regular operating hours for the store (effective September 23rd) will be Fridays & Saturdays from 10 AM until 7 PM.

For more information about the work of Spencer Pride, please visit or check them out on Facebook at


2016 Festival Sets Record Despite Rain

From the StreetThe 2016 Spencer Pride 10th Anniversary Festival was an amazing success by nearly all measures, despite a drizzly morning and a major downpour in the afternoon.  An estimated 2000 people took part in the festivities of the 10th annual event in the heart of downtown Spencer.  Especially notable was the continued and expanded presence of families. All ages took advantage of the inflatable fun that filled Market Street, from the Rock Climbing Wall, sponsored by the Dragonfly Gallery, to the Bounce House, sponsored by Edwards Farm Supply. Starbucks Pride Alliance

The Spencer Pride Festival continues to be the second-largest event taking place in downtown Spencer each year.

There was an open house for Spencer Pride’s new CommUnity Center at 46 E. Market St, where the history of the past years of their efforts was on display. The facility also hosted a glass blowing demonstration by Family Dog Glass Shop and spirit tasting for those 18 and older by Cardinal Spirits. The building was popular throughout the day and even more so when the rain fell.

“People were so excited to get a glimpse of our new CommUnity Center and to learn about what we will be offering there once we open in September,” said Spencer Pride Inc. president Jonathan Balash.

Quarryland“They are amazed that Spencer, Indiana is about to become the smallest town in America with an LGBTQI community center, and they are expressing a strong desire to help make the facility a success,” Balash added.CommUnity Center

The festival was filled with plenty of activities for everyone; the entertainment on the main stage, the expansive marketplace, the tasty food options, the pet parade, and the Prism All-Ages Activity Zone.

The special anniversary festival featured guest host, Suzanne Westenhoefer! She added a hilarious element to the already fabulous entertainment line-up. Sheryl Daniels returned for her fourth year as Emcee of the Spencer Pride Festival. Sheryl is also the entertainment coordinator of the event, so she is responsible for all of the talented artists who perform. A huge hit of the day was Bloomington Beat, a youth group who danced their hearts out! Also appearing were, SarahJayne Balash, Adam Riveiere, Hudsucker Posse, Andrea Davis, Window To My Soul, Quarryland Men’s Chorus, Different Drummer Belly Dancers, Ladies of Spencer Pride drag show and Rene Janski. They even had a Zumba session lead by Nancy Emerson. The entertainment was topped off at 7pm by King Bee and The Stingers.

In addition, the festival marketplace – which had over 100 vendors – received great feedback by festival-goers, many of which spent hours perusing the items for sale and learning about important causes. The marketplace was spread throughout the entire lawn of the courthouse and spilled into Franklin Street as well, where most of the food vendors, the Owen County Public Library’s Bookmobile, and the PFLAG Yard Sale were located.  Vendors reported receiving record sign-ups and record donations from the crowd, which continues what they have reported for past year’s festivals as well

The food vendors were very busy, as usual. From funnel cakes to french fries, from ice cream sodas to cotton candy, from corn on the cob to buffalo burgers, and much more, there were plenty of options to satisfy most cravings at this year’s festival.

Volunteers at Welcome BoothThe second annual pride Pet Parade was really popular!  Nearly 20 animals participated in the parade. A panel of kids evaluated each one before announcing two winners – one GRAND PRIZE winner and one runner-up. All of the pets seemed to enjoy the attention they received as a result of their involvement in the event.

The Prism All-Ages Activity Zone was entirely coordinated by Prism Youth Community-Bloomington and included a variety of activities for this year’s festival, including jewelry-making, button-making, sensory bottles, and more.  Suzanne Watches

This year’s 10th Anniversary raffle was filled with items like autographed items from renowned comedian Kate Clinton and the Indigo Girls, 2 overnight stays at French Lick, a hot air balloon ride for 2 from TJV Balloons, and many more items donated by celebrities and local businesses.

All of the volunteers at Spencer Pride Inc. were so pleased with how this year’s festival turned out. It took more than 50 individuals to coordinate, setup, staff, and clean-up this year’s event.  Volunteers received a lot of feedback from people at the event and even more afterward, all of which expressed gratitude for a fun and family-friendly afternoon at the courthouse, despite the rain.

“Spencer Pride is 100% volunteer driven, and without the help of amazing volunteers they wouldn’t be able to put on the Spencer Pride Festival,” said Volunteer Coordinator, Judi Epp. Amid the festivities, a representative of one of the churches present told Judi about the opportunity to counsel a young gay man. “This is why I come here,” said the representative. “If I can help even one person, it’s worth the effort.”

Enjoying Festival FoodPeople continue to recognize the uniqueness of what Spencer Pride is – a family-friendly rural LGBTQI pride event where ALL ARE WELCOME. For ten years the event has served to dispel misperceptions of this rural community and organizers hope to do so for many more years to come. They ask that you help them continue to spread the word about Spencer Pride and their new CommUnity Center opening in the fall.

French Lick Resort Supports Pride“Just one week after our festival the world woke up to the sad news about the massacre in the Orlando nightclub,” said Balash. “It was an unfortunate reminder of the work that has yet to be done to educate people about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex community. We ask the public to continue their support of Spencer Pride and organizations that work to make the world a safer place for ALL PEOPLE.”

The 2017 Spencer Pride Festival will be held on June 3, 2017. For more information about Spencer Pride, its events, and the CommUnity Center, please visit or find Spencer Pride on Facebook.

Orlando Massacre Victims

The names below are the individuals who lost their lives in the Pulse nightclub massacre in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016.  The Spencer Pride Board of Directors and all of our volunteers send our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were lost.  This tragedy serves as a reminder of how important it is that we continue to educate people about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender community in order to make our world a better place.    #Orlando   #OnePulse

  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
  • Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
  • Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
  • Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
  • Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
  • Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
  • Cory James Connell, 21 years old
  • Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
  • Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
  • Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
  • Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
  • Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
  • Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
  • Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
  • Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
  • Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
  • Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
  • Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
  • Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
  • Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
  • Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
  • Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
  • Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
  • Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
  • Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
  • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
  • Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
  • Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
  • Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
  • Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
  • Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
  • Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Spencer Pride’s Statement on the Orlando Massacre

Last night, in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in United States’ history, at least 50 people were killed & another 53 injured in an Orlando gay night club.    
Throughout the world, LGBTQI people & their allies celebrate June as Pride Month. It is a time to reflect on how far society has come towards accepting gay, lesbian, & transgender people – but even more importantly – an opportunity for each one of us to take a moment to be proud of who we are. We were born this way & we need to take the time to celebrate that fact without any shame.   
Pride Month is also a time to consider how much farther we still have to go in educating the public about LGBTQI people.  
Please take a moment today to think of those who were lost last night & for the families they left behind. Then, consider what you can do to help enlighten others about LGBTQI civil rights. Perhaps, you could stand up for a student you’ve seen picked on at school. Maybe, you could write a letter or make a phone call to an elected official about important legislation that affects the LGBTQI community at large. Or, simply give your son or daughter a big hug and tell them how proud you are of who they have become.   
We are confident that the massacre in Orlando won’t send us back into our closets in fear; rather, it will rally & unify our community to continue our efforts for full LGBTQI equality. We hope that you’ll join us.   

A Message from Spencer Pride’s President

Throughout the life of a healthy organization, there are moments when it must decide whether to stay on the well-worn path or to venture into uncharted territory.  In the past 10 years, Spencer Pride, Inc. has never been afraid to take risks to further our efforts.  In fact, our volunteers have always jumped at the opportunity to do more for our community.    Our risks have paid off.  We learn from our mistakes, & we have found that by pushing our own boundaries we actually find that our capabilities actually far exceeded our initial expectations.

In 2007, the very first Spencer Pride event was a free picnic in Cooper Commons Park coordinated by the local Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) group.  A year later, mother nature presented an opportunity for the event to be more than just a picnic by the river; rather, our picnic was transplanted to the center of town and onto the lawn of the county courthouse where it could flourish.  That change meant a lot more responsibility & visibility for our event.  We rose to the occasion, & just 8 short years later the Spencer Pride Festival has become the second largest event in downtown Spencer.  In 2016, more than 100 booths participated in our festival marketplace, & our sponsors consisted of some of the largest employers in the area, including Cook Group & Boston Scientific Corporation.

Market Street ShopWithin a few years of our festival’s move to the courthouse, Spencer Pride, Inc. began celebrating LGBT history month in October with film screenings & community dialogues about issues relevant to rural lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender people.  Each year we focused on new topics that would stir discussion & education within the local community.  In 2013, those film screenings blossomed into “A Night at the Tivoli,” what has become one of the largest LGBT history month events in south central Indiana.   While our film event grew, so did other educational activities such as our educational library displays.  In our first year those displays were featured in 7 local libraries.  Now, more than 25 local libraries & schools in 8 counties display our LGBT history creations.  These achievements didn’t happen by accident.  Our hard-working volunteers – with the help of our sponsors & other supporters – made them happen.

In addition to our annual events, we also provide a variety of services to the community.  Diversity education panels are one of those services.  This panel, consisting of members of the LGBTQI community & their families & friends, educates groups on topics pertinent to the LGBTQI community.  One of the more popular uses of this panel is for employee diversity awareness training.  Multiple area Walmart locations have hosted these panels.  We’ve also participated in panels at Indiana University in response to bullying on campus.  We offer these panels as a free service.

There are many more examples that I could give about how we have demonstrated a willingness to take big steps & to show how those steps have resulted in huge successes for our organization & its mission.  As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, our organization took a look at what we have become & what we would like to be over the next decade.  First & foremost we want to continue the events & activities for which we have become known.  Second, we are ready to once again step onto the less-worn path by embarking on a new adventure: a permanent year-round presence in downtown Spencer. 

What does this mean?  It means that Spencer Pride, Inc. will be operating a community center in downtown Spencer where we will offer our educational services, provide space for other not-for-profits to further their own mission, & provide a new service to the community by becoming a certified “Safe Place.”  The “Safe Place”  designation is intended to represent places where struggling youth can go & seek help.  Our volunteers will be able to refer youth in need to a variety of local services available to them.  In addition to the aforementioned activities, the community center will also sell some items in order to bring in donations that further our overall mission to educate the community about rural LGBTQI people and issues.   The community center will continue to be 100% volunteer run, as are all of our activities.

Our building is located at 46 E. Market Street in Spencer, on the courthouse square.  It is an ideal location for our organization due to both its visibility in the community as well as its proximity to both of our main annual events.

We signed a long-term lease at a substantial discount from market rental rates.  The landlord is a strong supporter of Spencer Pride, Inc. & has made a significant financial commitment to restore our building & bring it to modern standards.  This will occur in two phases.  The first phase is already complete.  The landlord executed a substantial renovation of the front of the building so that Spencer Pride could take possession of it.  This included a new roof, updated electrical wiring, demolition & reconstruction of interior walls, & several other key activities to make the space usable for us.  The second phase will include a full restoration ‘from street to alley.’  Updated heating, installation of air conditioning, flooring, & a bathroom are some of the items that will be included with phase two, which is expected to be in process over the next 6-18 months.

Because of the two-phased approach with the renovation, our usage of the space will also evolve.  Initially we will be working within a smaller footprint.  We will be able to certify it as a “Safe Place,” utilize it for our meetings, & have some retail space (100% of all profits would work to further our educational pursuits).  Once the second phase has been completed, we will expand to the entire building.  This will greatly increase our ability to hold educational events & to allow other not-for-profits to share the space.  We have additional ideas for how to use the building that our Board of Directors & volunteers are still considering.

Over the next several months, we will be sharing updates on our progress in getting the community center ready for its September Grand Opening.  We are also seeking sponsors who can help us to achieve our goals for the community center.  Sponsorship money will be used for training programs for our volunteers (in order to support our effort to designate the center as a “Safe Place”); purchase furniture, technology, & supplies to make the space functional for meetings & other educational events; overhead; & to acquire other items deemed necessary by the board to meet our objectives for the new building.

If you wish to become a community center sponsor, please contact me.  You can reach me via e-mail at or via telephone at 812-821-3073.  If you wish, I can also meet you at our Market Street building to show you the space & walk you through the opportunities that you can help make a reality.

Thank you for supporting us as we begin this new and exciting adventure for Spencer Pride.

Jonathan A Balash Signature




Jonathan Balash

President, Spencer Pride Inc.

Spencer Pride Plans for 10 Hours of Fun on June 4th

MAY 24, 2016

Suzanne Westenhoefer will be the guest host of the 2016 Spencer Pride Festival. She will begin at 1 PM.


SPENCER, INDIANA – The 2016 Spencer Pride Festival takes place in downtown Spencer on the square on Saturday, June 4, from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  The festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary as Indiana’s Rural LGBTQI Pride Event.  This year’s theme is “A Decade of Diversity.”

2016 EntertainmentIn order to celebrate this special anniversary, Spencer Pride organizers are bringing a very special guest host to the event this year: renowned comic, Suzanne Westenhoefer.  Westenhoefer was the first out lesbian comic with her own HBO® Comedy Special and she has been featured on Late Night as well.

The Spencer Pride Festival is known for its inclusive atmosphere and small-town setting.  The event has grown steadily year after year and will be continuing that pattern in 2016 with over 100 vendors who will be participating in the diverse festival marketplace. The marketplace features everything from local artists to animal welfare organizations to civic organizations, as well as many retail vendors.  There will also be a wide variety of festival food and snacks this year.

Elphaba Balash poses for a quick photo at the 2015 Spencer Pride Pet Parade.

Spencer Pride is a family-friendly event and will have many activities for free this year to kids of all ages. The Family Fun Area consists of many inflatable activities, including a 32-foot high rock wall (sponsored by The Dragonfly Gallery), obstacle course (sponsored by Edwards Farm Supply), deluxe slip-n-slide, Toddler Town, 5-in-1 Combo Bounce House, and the very popular Dunk Tank.  A variety of community leaders and representatives from organizations will be featured in this year’s dunk tank, including some candidates running for election this year.

The Prism All-ages Activity Zone will include a coloring contest (featuring a design by local artist Susan Shorter-Anderson), button- & jewelry-making, face painting, & glitter sensory bottle-making.    This family-friendly set of interactive activities is provided by the Prism Youth Community – Bloomington, which is part of Bloomington PRIDE.

This year will also feature the second annual Spencer Pride Pet Parade, which will kick-off in front of the courthouse at 12:30 PM.    Pets of all kinds will be judged on their personality & outfits in order to award one grand-prize winner & one runner-up.  Responsible pet owners do not need to register their pets in advance – just show up at 12:30 on the south side of the courthouse with pets in hand (or on a leash).  Participation is free.

Local, live entertainment on stage will keep the entire family busy all day long.  Quarryland Men’s Chorus, Adam Riviere, King Bee & the Stingers, and many more performers will be on stage.  The Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show will take place at 4 PM.  This will be the 9th year of the drag show.  Spencer Pride is the only place in the Midwest where you can see a drag show on the lawn of a county courthouse.  A complete listing of all entertainers & performance times is located on the organization’s event page at   This year’s entertainment is sponsored in part by Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington.

Mocha Debeaute will be performing at the Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show on June 4th at 4 PM
Mocha Debeaute will be performing at the Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show on June 4th at 4 PM

Free HIV testing  will be available from 1 – 6 PM and is being provided by Positive Link, a Program of Indiana University Health.

For adults, there will be raffles and 50-50 drawings throughout the day.  There will also be free samples provided by Cardinal Spirits for those attendees who are 21 & over.  Those samples will be distributed in the new headquarters building of Spencer Pride, Inc.  The building, located at 46 E. Market Street, will be open for tours during the festival.  In addition to the celebratory samples from Cardinal Spirits, there will be live glass blowing demonstrated by the Family Dog Glass Shop.  Visitors of the new building will also be able to check out some of the history of Spencer Pride, through a large timeline on display of the organization’s many activities over the past decade.   Except for the free samples, all other activities taking place in the building are for all-ages.

Parking, admission, and entertainment are all free at the Spencer Pride Festival, so attendance is well-worth the travel for an entire day of fun.  More than 2,000 people are expected to attend this year.  The Spencer Pride Festival is the second largest event that occurs on the square of the Owen County Courthouse each year.

The Spencer Pride Festival is sponsored by Positive Link (a program of Indiana University Health), White River Valley PFLAG, Boston Scientific PACE, Spencer, Bloomington, Linton, & Greencastle Walmart stores, Cody Crone Realtor/Broker, Cook Group, French Lick Resort, and many more local businesses and organizations.

2016 Vendor Listing

2016 brings back many prior vendors as well as many new ones.  We are always very please with the support of local businesses and organizations that choose to take part in our festival marketplace. Please see below for the list of vendors who have registered as of May 2, 2016.   This page will be updated periodically.



2016 Vendor Listing
2016 Vendor Listing


2016 Festival Entertainment Lineup Announced

The entertainment line-up for the 2016 Spencer Pride Festival is a diverse group of tremendously talented artists.  From honky-tonk to blues, from instrumental music to tribal dance, from choirs to gender-bending drag queens, we have a fabulous spectrum of styles for this year’s festival.

As a reminder, all of our entertainment is 100% free, as is festival admission & parking.

Please come support Spencer Pride and our entire schedule of performers by staking claim to a small piece of the courthouse lawn and making a day of Spencer Pride. It’s fabulous, fun, FREE, and of course, family-friendly (pets, too!).

Entertainment begins at 10 AM and lasts through 8 PM on the Ivy Tech Bloomington Main Stage which is located on the south side of the Owen County Courthouse. We also have some additional entertainment taking place on the north courthouse lawn.  Please note the extended hours this year, which are intended to help us celebrate our 10th birthday well into the evening.

We are proud to have Sheryl Daniels returning as our emcee of entertainment this year. Sheryl brings a lot of experience with her and really helps to keep the audience informed and engaged throughout the day.

Helping Sheryl will be special guest host Suzanne Westenhoefer.  Suzanne is a well-known lesbian comic who has had her own HBO Comedy Special and has been featured on Late Night.   Suzanne will be sharing her comedy with the crowd the entire day.

Suzanne Westenhoefer
Suzanne Westenhoefer

All times listed are subject to change.

SarahJayne Balash (10:00 AM)

SarahJayne Balash has been pursuing a career in music since she has been 15 years old, whether she realized it or not. Her bluesy vocals, country roots, and folk writing style have pushed her into a unique category among today’s emerging artists. Her songs range from anything such as an awkward ukulele tune about feeding an ex-boyfriend to zombies to slow pieces that ultimately spell out heartbreak. She will be attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music next year, where she will major in Songwriting and be a part of the school’s vocal department.

SarahJayne Balash
SarahJayne Balash

Adam Riviere (10:30 AM)

A musician of 20+ years who grew up in Bloomington, Indiana & studied under passing musicians from around the country as well as the world. Once part of a top ranked drumline in high school to playing in various ensembles at Butler University in Indianapolis to getting into performing and writing electronic music during his Masters at IUPUI, now Adam takes all of his knowledge of music from over the years to create a single sound and to share that sound to everyone he can. This is Adam’s first time performing at the Spencer Pride Festival.

Adam Riviere
Adam Riviere

Pet Parade (12:30)

This is the second annual Spencer Pride Pet Parade. The parade will start on the south side of the courthouse and will travel clock-wise around the sidewalk around the courthouse. The parade will end up on the lawn in front of the main stage, where each contestant and their owner will be announced. Judges will review the contestants for color and personality and will award a GRAND PRIZE WINNER before wrapping things up. No registration is required for participation in the pet parade.


Quarryland Men’s Chorus (3:00 PM)

The Quarryland Men’s Chorus provides a positive performance-based community for gay and bisexual men and their allies in South Central Indiana. We foster talent, fellowship, pride, and understanding through excellence in vocal music. The Quarryland Men’s Chorus has attended the festival several times in the past and is always a crowd favorite.

Quarryland Men's Chorus
Quarryland Men’s Chorus

Different Drummer Belly Dancers (5:00 PM)

Different Drummer Belly Dancers mixes traditional belly dancing and modern music, borrowing from cabaret, American Tribal, and Dunyavi Gypsy styles of belly dance. We believe the power, beauty, joy, and grace of belly dance can be expressed in our modern music. Different Drummer Belly Dancers have attended the festival previously and always get the crowd moving!

Different Drummer Belly Dancers
Different Drummer Belly Dancers


Drag Show (4:00 PM)

The Spencer Pride Festival is the only place where you can see a drag show on the lawn of a county courthouse in Indiana. The show has been a long-standing tradition of Spencer Pride and has been going since the festival moved to the Owen County Courthouse square in 2008. The drag show is the result of a fabulous pairing of Vicci Laine – who coordinates the gals – and Steve Keith – who coordinates the sounds. Participants in the Drag Show usually aren’t announced ahead of time, but they never disappoint! This is a family-friendly event so everyone is encouraged to come witness the talents of the ladies of Spencer Pride!

Vicci Laine
Vicci Laine

King Bee & The Stingers (7:00 PM)

King Bee & The Stingers haven’t performed at the Spencer Pride Festival before & we are excited to have them for their first time.  They are an indi-blues band that is sure to get the evening crowd moving.

King Bee & The Stingers
King Bee & The Stingers

But wait, there’s plenty more!

Additional performers at this year’s festival include:

  • Window to My Soul (Kali Bentley)
  • Andrea Davis (from Straight Davis)
  • Bloomington Beat Youth
  • Hudsucker Posse
  • Renee Oiseau Janski

In addition to the live entertainment on stage, there is a LOT to do at the festival!

Get your hands busy in the Prism All-Ages Activity Zone, where you can try jewelry or button-making, participate in our first-ever coloring contest (featuring an exclusive design from local artist Susan Shorter-Anderson), and more! This area is entirely organized and staffed by volunteers from Prism Youth Community, which is a program of Bloomington PRIDE.

Zumba (with Nancy Emerson) will be a popular item to help work some of those calories off from the elephant ears!

Need to cool off? Jump into our Wet-n-Wild Pride Slip-n-Slide (all-ages)! It’s the kind of fun you remember having as a child, but appropriately sized for adults, too! This is a free actitity, so don’t hesistate to use it all day!

There are many more activities in our Family Fun Area this year.  It will be more than twice the size of any prior year!

Back by popular demand is our Dunk Tank! This activity was so popular last year that we’ve brought it back!  Tickets for the Dunk Tank are $1 each or 6 for $5. If your talents don’t match your desire to send someone underwater, you can take the short-cut and pay just $20 to tap the button!

Shop the festival marketplace, which includes our biggest selection of vendors ever. Whether you are looking to buy retail items or services, learn about local organizations, or get a bite to eat, there are plenty of options for all. In addition to the wonderful vendors in our festival marketplace, some of the local businesses on the square are also supporters of Spencer Pride. Those businesses will have bouquets of balloons posted prominently out front and we encourage everyone to stop by and check each of them out.

Purchase official Spencer Pride merchandise at our new cart conveniently located in the entertainment area. This is the only place to get your 2016 Spencer Pride Festival t-shirt or our other exclusive items such as rainbow umbrellas.  For the first time ever, we will also have a tank top option for our official festival shirt.

We’ve barely just scratched the surface about what you’ll find at Spencer Pride this year. Come out on Saturday, June 4 from 10 AM to 8 PM. To learn more, keep checking back on our website We are constantly posting new information about this year’s event and what attendees can expect.

Is it Possible to Legislate Dignity? (My Voice, by Kim Fidler)

Happy spring! Now that the legislative session is over, it is time to discuss what was and was not accomplished. My friends, I am sorry to say that this will not be a positive list. Yes, it was a short session. Yes, there were hundreds of bills filed. However, I am struggling to point out what was the biggest positive of this session. Instead, I have no problem pointing out what was one of the biggest negatives of this short legislative session of 2016. That, without a doubt, would be the failure to pass a law to add civil rights protections for our LGBT community members. There were several bills proposed in the House and Senate to address the fiasco that RFRA has become. However, in the end, nothing happened.

I had the opportunity to read an absolutely incredible article recently. The article was written by a very insightful lady by the name of Emma Lindsay. The title of the article was “Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid”. Before you rush to agree or to disagree, please allow me to tell you why this article was “spot on”! The real topic of the article focused on how America “incentivizes” racism in working class white people. It also touched upon our front-running presidential candidates and why their supporters do, in fact, support them. None of these supporters are stupid. More importantly, very few of them are actually racist at heart.

We already know that people generally discriminate due to their upbringing, due to fear, and due to ignorance. But, could there also be a financial reason? Could people possibly discriminate for their “own best interests”? I believe that people fundamentally really want only a few things. They want to feel safe, be loved, and feel as if they matter. They want dignity. Dignity just may be the most important “best interest” of the next election. And that, my friends, is absolutely okay and even more understandable!

Most people like to give and to share. They get a sense of pride from helping and/or supporting others, especially their family. When legislation takes that away from people, they want someone to fight for them to get it back! According to the author of the article, dignity is more important for most than finances! The sad fact is that nobody wants to occupy the “last place” in society. As long as racism and discrimination exist, others are not guaranteed to be “last place” in society.       Racists/Discriminators often want to “look good” to others in their social/peer groups. This is not an excuse. I am not saying that racism or discrimination is acceptable for any reason. BUT, perhaps if we can understand why people behave in this manner, we can begin to fix it. How do we do that? How do we make sure that people feel appreciated and heard? Could it possibly be accomplished, at least in part, by not passing laws that harm certain groups (RFRA, Right to Work, Repeal of the Common Construction Wage, Anti-Public Education laws…)? Why not use the legislature to celebrate diversity, to give people satisfying jobs with a living wage, and to get government out of public education and social issues??

At the end of the day, I ask myself, “Is it possible to legislate dignity?” Why not? We certainly spend much time and effort in Indiana legislating laws that remove the dignity of the working class. Think about this, please. What if we elected legislators who wanted to recognize the good things that are going on in public schools rather than testing students and teachers to their breaking points? What if we elected legislators who honored love and voted to protect the civil rights of members of the LGBT community? What if we had legislators who would forgo their own pay and benefits to be able to raise the minimum wage to a living wage? What if we had legislators who voted to do whatever it took to make Indiana a welcoming place to all? What if we had legislators who were not worried about the interests and money from out-of-state companies that are funding and making the decisions for Indiana?

Yes, I believe that we can have an uplifting legislature that works for (not against) the working class. We can stop the attacks. I am not proposing legislation that is simply welfare, or handouts. I certainly know that we have people in unfortunate situations who need those programs. No! I am talking about legislation that will allow working class people to have dignity by earning a living wage, by being respected in their workplace, in their marriage, and in every aspect of their lives.

We can instead, work together to make Indiana what it should be for everyone here! If we can legislate disrespect and hatred, we can certainly legislate dignity and respect. We begin this process by voting.

Sweet Owen Community Cleanup

Community EventsA drive down any road in Owen County yields lovely views of fields, woods, spring-blooming trees, . . . and roadside trash. Spencer Pride and the Owen County Garden Club have teamed up to sponsor a month-long effort to clean up and beautify Owen County’s roadsides. Participants can dispose of roadside trash for free at the Owen County Recycle Center.


The event coordinators, Spencer Pride and the Garden Club, invite—perhaps even “challenge”—individuals, businesses, and other civic and nonprofit groups to participate in the Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up.


“The task of roadside clean-up is too big for one day or for one or two groups,” said Julie Coffin, Garden Club President. “That’s why we designated the whole month of April as clean-up month. People can choose their own spot to clean up and do it whenever it fits their schedule. If a lot of people spend even an hour picking up trash, just think how that will help.”


SOCC bannerHere’s how it works. Anyone who wishes to take action and be part of the Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up should follow these steps:

  • Make contact with clean-up coordinators Jacob Balash (812-821-1442) or Julie Coffin (812-829-2493), or leave a comment or message at the Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up Facebook page. This is important because in order to dispose of your roadside trash for free at the Owen County Recycle Center, the coordinators need to know ahead of time.
  • If you wish, arrange to pick up large, sturdy trash bags from one of the clean-up coordinators. This is optional, but it saves you the expense.
  • Clean up a section of road that matters to you.
  • Take a picture of yourself! Or, take a picture of your stack of trash. Post the picture on the Facebook page. Or email it to Julie Coffin at Let other people know that you helped clean up a piece of Owen County.
  • Dispose of your roadside trash (and any recyclables) for free at the Owen County Recycle Center during its regular hours of operation. But again, event coordinators need to have you on a list ahead of time.


A Facebook page is up and running on which people can ask questions, get involved, and, most importantly, post pictures of their clean-up efforts. Find the Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up page at Organizers hope that using social media will help spread awareness and help spur people to participate.


“We’ve always found social media to be the best method of bringing people’s attention to special activities and events that we’re involved with. By participating on the Sweet Owen Community Cleanup Facebook page people will get to share their wonderful success stories of cleaning up the county, plus help motivate others to do what they can to improve the landscape alongside our roads,” said Jacob Balash, Spencer Pride Inc. volunteer.


Event organizers encourage participants to separate recyclables from roadside trash, if at all possible. Glass, aluminum, tin/steel, and plastic are all viable recyclables, and separating them keeps them out of the landfill and helps to support the Recycle Center. Styrofoam, which makes up a significant percentage of roadside trash, is not recyclable and must be disposed of as trash. Coordinators also remind participants to use caution, and to be alert to traffic when working on county roadsides.


At the end of April, Spencer Pride and the Garden Club will host a celebratory pitch-in lunch. Pride members, Garden Club members, and anyone who participates in the Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up is invited. Bring a dish to share on Saturday, April 30, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Owen County Art Guild, 199 W. Cooper Street.


“We’re asking people to take action on their own,” says Coffin, “but we want to see and meet everyone. That’s how we build community. That’s how we all feel good about being here and about working together to make our community better.”

Suzanne Westenhoefer to Host Spencer Pride

Suzanne Westenhoefer -love - photo credit to Ellie PerezOn Friday, Spencer Pride made a big announcement on Facebook.  Suzanne Westenhoefer, the groundbreaking comedian, will be hosting the 2016 Spencer Pride Festival!  This is major news for the rural pride event.

Suzanne was the first openly lesbian comedian with an HBO Special and the first openly lesbian comedian on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Her comedy is stereotype-shattering and brutally honest.   After more than 25 years since she first began as a comic, Suzanne’s visit to the Spencer Pride Festival will add yet another ‘first’ to her biography.

Suzanne will be hosting the festival throughout the day alongside Spencer Pride emcee Sheryl Daniels.  Suzanne will sprinkle her comedy amidst the other line-up of fantastic entertainers that will be performing on June 4th.  Entertainers confirmed for this year include King Bee & The Stingers, Quarryland Men’s Chorus, Different Drummer Belly Dancers, and many more, including the infamous Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show.

Suzanne Westenhoefer - photo credit to Ellie PerezFestival organizers have been advertising this year’s event – their 10th anniversary festival – as the biggest and best ever.  After reporting that their vendor registration in mid-February had more than doubled last year’s registration from the same time, this announcement about Westenhoefer certainly continues to confirm that it seems truly on pace to be the ‘biggest and best ever.’  Further signs of this year’s event being extra fabulous include confirmation this week that the family fun area will be doubled and will offer special new activities such as the a ‘toddler town’ for those under 5, a superhero-themed 5-in-1 bounce house for kids 12 & under, and a rock wall for those 13 and older.  Several more activities will also help make up the Family Fun Area.

As always, the Spencer Pride Festival is 100% family friendly and free.

For more information about the 2016 Spencer Pride Festival, please continue to visit


Spring Cleanup at the Owen County Public Library (My Voice, by Eric Jones)

OCPL VolunteeringEarlier today, Spencer Pride continued its march toward its 10-year anniversary with our February community service event – Clean up at the Owen County Public Library. The Library will be undergoing an exciting transformation very soon, and the wonderful staff needed help clearing out the attic and basement.

We helped by gathering and moving boxes, lockers, metal bookshelves, and more. It was a beautiful day, but hard work nonetheless. We are very grateful to our wonderful volunteers who are so actively engaged in doing good in our community, and equally grateful for our amazing community partners that make the world a better place.

Thanks again to Owen County Public Library for letting us help!

On February 29, the Spencer Evening World published a thank-you letter from the library.  It read as follows:

“The staff of the Owen County Public Library would like to thank the volunteers of Spencer Pride for all of their help on Saturday, February 20. As the library gets closer to the beginning of construction there are many organizational and cleanup projects going on. We were very fortunate to have beautiful weather that day, allowing us to get many things accomplished. The attic space in the library is being cleaned out completely. With Spencer Pride’s help we were able to move a large amount of metal shelving from there out to our bookmobile garage across the street. Staff lockers were disassembled and moved to the garage and approximately seventy boxes of library records were moved to the basement for permanent storage.

It was a fun and productive day thanks to all the help from the all ages group of volunteers from Spencer Pride. We could not have done it so quickly and easily without you.”