10 Things to Expect at Spencer Pride, for First-Timers

  1. Spencer Pride is an event that celebrates the beautiful diversity of our community. We are inclusive regardless of how you identify, whether that be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual, pansexual, asexual, intersex, queer, questioning, or curious! Rich or poor, scrawny or curvy, native-born or immigrant, there’s a place for you at our event. As a matter of fact, we don’t ask for ID* at Spencer Pride, so come as your authentic self & that’s just perfect for us. (*ok, so technically we do ask for ID in our Pride Lounge to ensure that we are allowing only people 21 & older to partake in any of the beverages from Cardinal Spirits or Civilian Brewing Corps. But no ID required anywhere else.)
  2. No Admission or Parking Fees ensure that everyone – regardless of their socioeconomic status can attend.
  3. We are an all-weather event. If there’s a light rain, step under a canopy (there are about 130 of them across the festival grounds). Moderate rain? Adventure into the Spencer Pride commUnity center or one of the other 20+ downtown businesses listed on the festival map. Don’t worry – we always are safety-minded & want to ensure your health & happiness. That being said, without a little rain, you can’t have any rainbows!
  4. Happy, energetic, welcoming people are everywhere at Spencer Pride. That is because everyone at Spencer Pride wants to be there. Event organizers are 100% volunteer-powered so there’s no one who’s in it for a paycheck. The people invoked are there because of their passion to make the world a better place. The Pride Festival is just one aspect of what we do at Spencer Pride, but it’s perhaps the most rewarding!
  5. Far bigger than when the Spencer Pride Festival began 13 years ago, the event now sprawls throughout the courthouse square. This includes the entire courthouse lawn plus two adjacent streets, downtown businesses, & of course the Spencer Pride commUnity center itself. More than 110 organizations have booths in our marketplace. This provides many opportunities to shop, learn, play, & eat.
  6. Family-focused & family-accommodating Activities are the core of Spencer Pride. Every member of the family will find something to do all-day long. Don’t worry about the kids or grandparents getting bored! Need to change a diaper? Restrooms in the courthouse & the Spencer Pride commUnity center all have changing tables. Need to breastfeed or pump in privacy? Visit our breastfeeding station in the courthouse.
  7. Supportive downtown businesses are here to welcome & celebrate you. Most of the businesses on the square (see our festival map for a list) are direct supporters of the work of Spencer Pride. We encourage you to show them support by visiting their establishments. You’ll be treated with the same hospitality that we’ve become known for.
  8. Spencer Pride features diverse musical entertainment at two venues. In total, that’s 14 hours of music that includes everything from folk to pop, solo singer/songwriters to choirs, guitars to harps. Our largest venue is the Ivy Tech Stage, which is located on the south lawn of the Owen County Courthouse. New this year is our smaller venue in the Gathering Place of the Spencer Pride commUnity center.
  9. Accessibility to all aspects of the event, regardless of your mobility or self-identification. Although the courthouse restrooms are gendered, you are welcome to choose whichever restroom you identify with. If you are non-binary or don’t like to make a choice (or if there’s a line!) head over to the commUnity center where you’ll find two non-gendered restrooms. In a wheelchair? The courthouse lawn can be easily accessed via the north lawn. The courthouse itself is also equipped with a ramp for ease of entry. Whether you are self-powered or utilizing assistance, all elements of the festival are at your disposal.
  10. We are a pet-friendly event. Pets of all kinds are welcome (we do not discriminate between feathers, scales, or fur) as long as they are accompanied by a responsible, leashed human companion. If your pet is feeling left out of the festivities, encourage them to participate in the Pet Pride Parade presented by Elanco. The parade kicks off from Camden’s Carnival at 3:30. No pre-registration or fee is required. Keep your pets cool & hydrated during the day. Water bowls can be found throughout the courthouse square. Human companions are expected to clean up after their pets.

Camden’s Carnival & commUnity center Host Expanded Activities for 2019 Festival

There are plenty of activities planned for this year’s Spencer Pride Festival on June 1, in addition to the previously announced lineup of entertainment at two venues. The main activities will be occurring in Camden’s Carnival (Spencer Pride’s family fun area located in Market Street) & the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

When it comes to all-ages fun, nothing will satisfy attendees more than Camden’s Carnival. While Spencer Pride has always had plenty of things to do, the carnival has greatly expanded over the past two years & will continue to do so again this year. In the center of the carnival area Bloomington Aerology will be showing off their aerial silk talents & offering free lessons. Adjacent to this will be several booths which will include carnival games (sponsored by Insurance Pros, LLC). Face painting will be provided by The Painted Lady. Iris Youth Group, PFLAG, & other Youth-oriented organizations will be located in this area as well.

To the west of the carnival games will be the large inflatables. This year the festival will have a rock wall, deluxe slip-n-slide, & bungee run, each one for all-ages. For those 12 & under there will be a bounce house. For the first time, the festival will feature a Touch-a-Truck area, which will include a semi, two law enforcement vehicles, & a fire truck. Weather-permitting, there will be vintage Model A cars & VW beetles.

Adjacent to the carnival, the Pet Pride Parade presented by Elanco will kick off at 3:30 PM. There is no fee to participate in this event & no advanced registration is required. Happy pets of all types who are leashed to a responsible human companion are welcome to participate. Judges will evaluate the pets based on personality, costume, & behavior.

At the Spencer Pride commUnity center, the Choose-Your-Own Raffles will once again fill the meeting room. Thousands of dollars of items are available during the raffles, which will be drawn throughout the day. Tickets are $1 each or 6/$5. Raffle items include jewelry, a speaker system, golf club bag, autographed sports memorabilia, overnight getaways at locations such as French Lick Resort, & much more.

Tickets for a 50/50 drawing will be sold all day. The winner will be selected at 7 pm. Tickets are $5 each or 5/$20. Last year, hundreds of dollars were awarded to the festival’s 50/50 winners.

Drag Queen Storytime, which was a new & wildly popular addition in 2018, is back again this year. It will take place at 4 pm in the Gathering Place of the commUnity center.

“With our expansion of the carnival & doubling of live entertainment this year we expect attendance to increase in those areas,” said Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride President & the organization’s festival lead.

“Emily Carroll, our Activities Committee Lead, has done an astounding job this year making the festival even more special than it has been in the past. Her devotion to our work is inspiring.”

For more information about the festival, please visit SpencerPride.org.

2019 Spencer Pride Festival Entertainment Lineup

The entertainment lineup for this year’s Spencer Pride Festival is twice as long but equally as diverse as compared to last year.  For the first time, the festival will feature two venues for all-day entertainment.  The Ivy Tech Bloomington Main Stage will continue to be the largest venue, located on the south lawn of the Owen County Courthouse in the heart of the LGBTQ+ festival.   The Gathering Place of the Spencer Pride commUnity center will serve as a second, smaller venue for 2019.

“We wanted to provide a venue that serves as a more intimate environment for both entertainer & audience,” said Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride president.  “We expect that the Gathering Place will be a popular location for everyone.”

Entertainers scheduled for this year include some returning favorites such as Quarryland Men’s Chorus & Inkwell Moon as well as new Spencer Pride Festival performers Static Rats & Dino.  From solo singer/songwriters like SarahJayne to bands like the Trip, from folk to rock, whether guitar or harp, the 2019 lineup offers someone for nearly everyone.

Schedules for each of the venues are below:

Ivy Tech Bloomington Stage

Spencer Pride commUnity center Gathering Place

This will be the first time that there has been a second entertainment venue at the Spencer Pride Festivalspenc

 

Spencer’s Downtown Business Community Shows Support for Spencer Pride

SPENCER, INDIANA – As the number of days remaining until the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival is getting smaller, downtown business support for the event & for organizer Spencer Pride, Inc. is strong & on the rise.

The Juniper Gallery is located on Market Street in downtown Spencer.

Businesses on the square that wish to express their support for Spencer Pride have an easy way to do so. Spencer Pride offers a special rate for these businesses to become official participants of the festival. This gets their business shown on the festival map & listed online as supporters. Businesses also receive a sticker that can be proudly displayed in a window, if the business desires to do so. In addition, Spencer Pride prints a map of supporting downtown businesses that is displayed year-round in the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

“Individuals visiting our center often ask us what businesses in the downtown area support us. They want to show them support in return,” says commUnity center Retail Manager Jacob Balash.

“Having the map makes that an easy conversation.”

Balash also says that people come in asking for specific types of businesses that are supportive of the organization.

“It’s wonderful to be able to answer their questions by directing them to one or more of our downtown retailers,” Balash continued.

“If they want a coffee shop that supports us, we can give them two businesses within 100 feet of our center.”

Balash is referring to Main Street Coffee & Spencer Coffee House. Both of the businesses will be open for extended hours during this year’s Spencer Pride Festival.

Jaime Sweany, owner of Juniper Art Gallery, is also one of the downtown businesses that support the festival & its parent organization.

Jaime Sweany, Owner of Juniper Gallery, is proud to display the Spencer Pride sticker in her store window.

“I chose Spencer as the location for Juniper Art Gallery largely because of Spencer Pride’s strong presence & community leadership.” Sweany said.

“I support the mission and work of Spencer Pride 100% & believe that embracing & celebrating diversity is essential for peace to prevail on this magnificent planet we all call home.”

Juniper Art Gallery is located at 46 E Market Street in the original location of the Spencer Pride commUnity center (before the LGBTQ+ center relocated to its permanent home at 17 E. Franklin Street).

Festival attendees may be surprised to find that many of the downtown businesses are offering products directed to the LGBTQ+ community & their allies.

“A few years back The Dragonfly Gallery started offering merchandise, such as greeting cards & wedding gifts, geared at same-sex couples,” explained Judi Epp, a member of Spencer Pride’s board of directors. She went on to explain how many people came to Spencer Pride volunteers to express how shocked they were to find such supportive businesses in Spencer. For Epp & others in the Spencer community, it’s not so surprising anymore.

“We have so many welcoming people here in Owen County. That’s why we’ve become so well known for such a fabulous festival every June.”

The Casida Barber Shop proudly displays their 2019 Spencer Pride sticker.

In total, more than 20 downtown businesses have chosen to be included on the 2019 festival map. That is the vast majority of businesses in Spencer’s downtown.

“As a lifelong resident of this community, I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see this type of visible support from our wonderful businesses downtown,” declared Cathy Wyatt, also a member of the board of directors.

“Through our work with Spencer Pride we’ve seen such positive change in our community over the years.”

Playhouse Toys & Games prominently shows their support of Spencer Pride at their store on Market Street in downtown Spencer.

Spencer’s downtown is in the midst of a great revitalization. This began in 2013, with the restoration & re-opening of the historic Tivoli Theatre. Since then, new businesses are cropping up on the square every year. In the past year alone, Spencer has seen the addition of Juniper Art Gallery, Spencer Coffee House, & most recently, the Civilian Brewing Corps. All three of those businesses are supporters of Spencer Pride. The Tivoli Theatre is also a supporter of Spencer Pride, who has a monthly volunteer night at the theatre & sponsors multiple events at the venue every year.

“The Tivoli is the true jewel of our downtown,” says Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash, who is Jacob’s husband.

“By showing support to one another, we help each other grow. We firmly believe that every business downtown is vital in making our community stronger. Knowing that they are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community means a lot to area residents & visitors.”

Jamie Sweany, went on to further explain her appreciation of Spencer Pride & the Spencer community as a whole: “It makes me proud to be part of an open-minded, progressive community that is working hard to bring more love and justice to the world.”

Ben Williams, owner of Civilian Brewing Corps., attributes some of the town’s success to Spencer Pride.

“Spencer’s downtown area is in the midst of a major comeback. I truly believe that it couldn’t have happened without the Spencer Pride organization,” said Williams.

On Montgomery Street, the newly opened Civilian Brewing Corps. displays their support for Spencer Pride.

“The Spencer Pride commUnity center & festival are not only helpful & enjoyable, but they show that the town is moving in a positive direction.”

The brewery, which officially opened to the public on March 3, had a ‘soft opening’ for the Midwest Pride Conference on March 2, to support Spencer Pride’s strategy of including as many local businesses as possible in the 3-day event. The conference was a huge success, in part, because of the support of business owners like Williams & his wife.

Civilian Brewing Corps. will be selling beverages at the festival for those 21 & older.

Marce King, Executive Director of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation, is excited about the revitalization of the downtown & business support for Spencer Pride.

“Owen County is a growing community! The citizens of Owen County understand that working together, communication, & caring about one another is what brings growth & strength to a community,” King stated.

“Spencer Pride plays an active role in working towards these goals.”

The current listing of supporting downtown businesses (this refers only to those businesses directly on the Owen County Courthouse Square) includes:

  • Axis Apparel Co.
  • Brown & Associates
  • Casida Barber Shop
  • Civilian Brewing Corps.
  • H&R Block
  • John J. Fuhs, Attorney at Law
  • Juniper Gallery
  • Main Street Coffee
  • Our Community Bank
  • Owen County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation
  • Owen County Community Foundation
  • Playhouse Toys & Games
  • Spencer Coffee House
  • Spencer Evening World
  • Sweet Owen Visitors Bureau
  • The Dragonfly Gallery
  • Tivoli Theatre
  • Unique Hair Designs
  • Watts Law Office
  • West & Co.

Festival attendees are strongly encouraged to visit the supporting businesses that are open during the festival on Saturday, June 1st.

Lucky 13: Spencer Pride Festival Returns on June 1st

SPENCER, INDIANA – The 13th annual Spencer Pride Festival will take place on Saturday, June 1st. The well-known rural LGBTQ+ pride festival is the largest event held on the square of the Owen County Courthouse.  This year’s festival will take place at a new time: noon to 7:00 PM.  The change in time is meant to capture a wider audience, especially those who work during the daytime on Saturday.  Admission & parking for the festival are both free & the public is invited to join in the festivities.   The event is entirely “-focused” according to its organizers.  

 

“Family-focused means that its not just tolerant of all ages, but that there are things to engage individuals of all ages as well,” said Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash.  “It’s important to us that families can come & spend the day in downtown Spencer without certain members of the family getting bored.  At Spencer Pride, we have something for everyone.”

 

The Spencer Pride Festival includes live entertainment throughout the day.  This year, live entertainment will be featured on the Ivy Tech main stage on the courthouse lawn as well as in the Gathering Place of the Spencer Pride commUnity center, which is located at 17 E. Franklin Street adjacent to the courthouse.  In total, the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival offers 14 hours of live musical entertainment, entirely free for festival attendees to enjoy.   The festival has an eclectic line-up of entertainers, from local bands Inkwell Moon and The Trip to singer/songerwriters like SarahJayne and Window to My Soul.  Other entertainers include Quarryland Men’s Chorus, Dino, & Ktea.  The annual Spencer Pride drag show will take place at 6:00 PM, however individuals interested in drag should plan to be at the festival by 5:30 to see the inaugural Spencer Pride amateur drag show.

 

The Spencer Pride Pet Parade, presented by Elanco, will kick off at 3:30 PM.  All pets are welcome to attend alongside their leashed, & well-mannered human companions.  This will be the fourth year of this event, which includes a short walk or “parade” around the courthouse before wrapping up on the Ivy Tech main stage on the south lawn.  

 

In addition to entertainment, the festival will feature a large marketplace including more than 110 booths.  Marketplace vendors include retailers for shopping & organizations for learning.  Vendors will be spread throughout the courthouse lawn on all four sides, plus Market Street & eastbound Franklin Street.  A huge array of food vendors will be available to serve attendees everything from snocones & fried pickles to tenderloin sandwiches & Bavarian pretzels.  Civilian Brewing Corps & Cardinal Spirits will be selling alcoholic beverages in the Pride Lounge, located on the south lawn for responsible drinkers 21 & older. 

 

Local businesses such as Boston Scientific & Catalent Biologics will be on hand to share information about available job opportunities in the region.  IU Health Positive Link will be providing free HIV Screening.  Ivy Tech will be staffing the First Aid Station, newly relocated onto the courthouse lawn for 2019.

 

Camden’s Carnival, which is the festival’s family fun area located on Market Street, will house a variety of games, inflatables, & activities for all-ages.  Most popular among the inflatables is the deluxe slip-n-slide, which is a must-do on a hot June afternoon.  Bloomington Airiology will be returning to the carnival again this year to demonstrate their aerial silk performances & to provide free lessons to those interested in learning about the fascinating skill of working with aerial silks.  The Spencer Pride Youth group Iris, who recently held an alternative prom attended by more than 80 LGBTQ+ & ally youth from throughout south central Indiana, will have a booth in the carnival for youth to hang out & learn more about that growing part of the Spencer Pride organization. 

 

One of the most engaging activities each year are the “choose-your-own raffles” which feature thousands of dollars of items for just $1 per raffle ticket.  The raffles will be located in the meeting room of the Spencer Pride commUnity center for the second year in a row.  Also located in the commUnity center will be official Spencer Pride merchandise, including limited edition 2019 t-shirts with a design created by local artist Grant Shorter.  Of course, Spencer Pride’s retail shop, Unity, will also be open throughout the event.  Unity focuses on selling locally made items from within Indiana.  It has become aintegral part of the shopping experience in downtown Spencer, along with the Dragonfly Gallery & the recently opened Juniper Gallery, both of whom are supporters of the Spencer Pride Festival.  Outside of the Spencer Pride commUnity center, the organization’s volunteers will be selling rainbow pride merchandise, snocones, & cotton candy (also known as “fairy floss”).

 

Other activities such as 50-50 drawings & random giveaways will take place throughout the duration of the event.  

 

Pride festivals have a rich history within the civil rights movement of the LGBTQ+ community.  Spencer Pride’s event offers a special blend of diversity & celebration that is less commonly associated with rural communities in conservative states like Indiana.  The Spencer Pride Festival is the largest rural LGBTQ+ gathering in the state of Indiana & it is the largest small town pride event for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer community in the Midwest. Spencer Pride attracts visitors from throughout the the Midwest & beyond.

 

Spencer, Indiana is a small rural community of approximately 2,400 people. It is located 17 miles west of Bloomington & the beautifulcampus of Indiana University. For thirteen years, Spencer has become more & more known for its passionate LGBTQ+ & ally community.  The small town, once known as a conservative riverside community, is now a rural mecca for LGBTQ+ people & their supporters.  In 2018, the Spencer Pride Festival brought more than 3,000 people out in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, more than doubling the size of the town itself.  

 

The organization is proud of the growth of their event, the wonderful community that supports it, & the attendees that passionately attend each year.  

 

“Eat some fried food, shop the marketplace, cool off in the slip-n-slide, & dry off on the lawn while enjoying the talents of amazing musical entertainers,” began Judi Epp, one of the organizations’  founders, “What is not to enjoy about Spencer Pride, one of the most fabulous summer festivals in Indiana?”

 

Spencer Pride is 100% family-focused & welcomes individuals of all ages & backgrounds.  Regardless of how you identify, you are welcome at Spencer Pride for a full-day of free, family fun!

 

The 2019 Spencer Pride Festival is sponsored by Walmart, Boston Scientific, Catalent Biologics, C.H. Douglas & Gray Wealth Management, IU Health, & many more organizations.   The historic Tivoli Theatre, WFHB, & Limestone Post are among its media sponsors. 

For more information regarding Spencer Pride, Inc., please visit www.SpencerPride.org or send questions to info@SpencerPride.org.  You can also find us on Facebook (SpencerPride), Twitter (@SpencerPrideInc), & Instagram (@SpencerPrideInc & @SpencerPrideYouth).

 

 

Alternative Prom Provides Safety & Celebration for LGBTQ+ Teens

Iris Youth Group, a program of Spencer Pride, held an alternative prom for LGBTQ+ youth & allies on Saturday, May 4th.  More than 100 teens registered for the event, representing 6 youth groups from communities from throughout south-central Indiana, including Spencer, Ellettsville, Bloomington, Martinsville, & Columbus.  The prom theme was “Under the Rainbow.”

 

Spencer Pride’s Youth Empowerment Lead Joy Hellman explained the two reasons why having this event was important for the youth: “LGBTQ+ youth often do not feel comfortable attending their high school prom while being their authentic self,” Joy described.  “This gave them an opportunity to have that experience.”  

 

Hellman stated that the second purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for teens from different regional groups to meet & form new friendships.

 

The prom took place at Stable Studios, an event venue in Owen County.  Upon arriving at the event, attendees began the evening with formal pictures outside.  After stepping into the rainbow-decorated facility, they checked in & received commemorative wrist bands.  Once these formalities were complete, teens were left to enjoy the festivities.  A prominent part of the evening, as with similar events, was dancing.  DJ Maddog (Madison True) kept the teens moving from the moment they walked into the door until midnight, which was well past the time she had been scheduled to end.  The crowd was so fun that True did not want to stop orchestrating the musical festivities.  

 

Live entertainment included a drag show with performers Mahogany, Juniper Perrone, & Chick Van Dyke. After their official performances ended, the drag artists took a few moments to speak with the youth, encouraging them to keep being true to themselves.  Then, the performers joined the teens to continue dancing for more than an hour.  

 

Kinetic Fire, a group from Ohio who considers themselves “object manipulators & fire artists” kicked off post prom activities.  The post prom also included an inflatable bungee run, glow-in-the-dark hula hooping, face painting, & a bonfire.

 

Prom attendees were thrilled at the event & most were seen grinning from ear-to-ear throughout the entire evening.   The only tears seen all night were those of joy.  

 

“The youth were amazing,” Hellman added.  “We didn’t have any issues with teens attempting to use drugs or alcohol.  There were no fights or drama of any kind.  It was simply a crowd of teens who felt accepted & celebrated for who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”  

 

Chaperones from Spencer Pride, White River Valley PFLAG, & some of the LGBTQ+ youth groups were on hand throughout the event, which lasted from 8 PM until 3 AM.  Onsite security was present as well, to address any issues hadthey had arisen. 

 

The youth from Iris were heavily involved in developing plans for the event, with support from several members of the Spencer Pride & White River Valley PFLAG groups, including Joy Hellman, Kindra Holsapple, Jessica Brinson, & Cathy Wyatt.

 

This is the first time that Spencer Pride has coordinated a prom event.  Based on the phenomenal success of this year’s event, plans for a 2020 prom are already underway.  

 

For more information about Spencer Pride, visit www.SpencerPride.org.   To learn more about the Iris youth group, visit their booth at the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival on Saturday, June 1st from noon to 7 PM in downtown Spencer.  

Shorter Wins Design Contest

Grant Shorter, local graphic designer, has won the 2019 Festival T-Shirt Design Contest. Shorter will receive two free shirts for his efforts. Grant is no stranger to designing for Spencer Pride. The official Spencer Pride logo is a creation of him.

This has been a good year for the designer, who recently won the shirt design contest for the Historic Tivoli Theatre as well.

2019 festival t-shirts will go on sale at the end of May & will be available at the festival (while supplies last). The shirt will be available as a crew neck in a variety of bright colors, from sizes XS to 4X.

Pride Leaders Targeted; Community Response Begins

The incident was recently reported in the Herald-Times.

Within weeks of the failure of the Indiana State Legislature to pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation, the home of two of Spencer Pride’s founders was the target of several incidents of hate-driven trespass, vandalism, & theft.

Spencer Pride President Jonathan Balash, his husband Jacob, & 6-year old son live south of the town of Spencer in a home they have lived in for the past 10 years. The married couple, who have been together for 18 years, have resided in Owen County since 2001.

The incidents were described on Jonathan’s Facebook page on April 10 and 13. The couple state that on four occasions during the same week, individuals trespassed on their land with the intent to remove the pride flag that had been proudly flying alongside their rural country road.   The Facebook posts can be viewed here & here.

Jonathan & Jacob have done their best to make light of the situation & drive awareness to hate-motivated acts targeted at the LGBTQ+ community.

During the first few incidents, the perpetrators attempted to force the Balashes’ flagpole down by wrapping the pole with a steel chain and pulling it with a heavy-duty vehicle. This proved challenging due to the robust installation of the flagpole, which had been completed mindful of the fact that it could become a target.

According to an affidavit filed with the Owen County prosecutor by the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, the effort to bring down the flagpole ultimately failed when the vehicle’s bumper was torn off. While the pole did not come down, it was damaged significantly. Damage to the pole & the adjacent limestone wall has been estimated to cost $4,300. A few days later, the same location was targeted again. This time, the flagpole’s rope was cut & the flags were removed. The rainbow pride flag was then stolen. A trail cam that the couple had set up to identify the vandals was also taken.  All the incidents occurred under the cover of darkness at the couple’s home.

Immediately after the couple posted about the incidents on Facebook, the news of what had occurred traveled around the world & was shared by LGBTQ+ organizations in several countries. Social media support for the couple was very positive.  Some individuals responded to the incident by making donations to Spencer Pride in honor of Jonathan & Jacob.

Spencer Pride elected to respond by distributing free pride flags from the Spencer Pride commUnity center, which is located at 17 E. Franklin Street adjacent to the Owen County Courthouse. To date, more than 40 flags have been given out. Most recipients of the flags have volunteered to have their photo taken with the rainbow flag. As a result, rainbow colors are more prevalent than ever in the downtown area & across social media.  Since first announcing the flag distribution, the commUnity center has received increased visitors.  Many of those guests have attributed their attendance to be as a direct result of the flag distribution, or in general as a gesture of support for the LGBTQ+ community during this time.

Many individuals have come out to the Spencer Pride commUnity center to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community in response to the acts against the Balashes.

THE INVESTIGATION SO FAR

The Owen County Sheriff’s Department is treating the harassment of the Balash home as separate incidents & not as a single effort over multiple days. As a result of this decision, charges thus far have only been filed for criminal mischief & criminal trespass.  Both of these crimes are misdemeanors. Theft of the flag & camera, which would be a felony, have not been addressed. While the Owen County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the incidents is ongoing, to date only one person has been charged.   On one of the evenings where the vandalism took place at the Balash home, the same teens allegedly broke into cabins & stole thousands of dollars in electronics & miscellaneous items, including a firearm.   Charges related to that case have also been filed.  A preliminary hearing took place on April 18 at the Owen County Courthouse.  For more information on this, visit the Bloomington Herald-Times article that was published on April 19.

Several concerned citizens wrote letters to Owen County Judge Lori Quillen to stress the impact of the type of hate-focused crimes that are alleged to have taken place to the Balash home. Judith Epp, Spencer Pride Director, took the position that it is important to respond quickly & with the full force of the law.  “Treating this offense leniently sends a message that we don’t take it seriously,” Epp stated in her letter to Judge Quillen. “This isn’t about just one family, it’s about the entire community…Do we have to wait until one of us is personally violently assaulted [before action will be taken]?”

Joy Hellman, Spencer Pride Director & Youth Empowerment Lead, also wrote a letter.  Hellman, who has been instrumental in the forming of the Iris Youth Group, wrote her letter emphasizing the impact of this case on local LGBTQ+ youth. “The teens in this group have often spoken to me about not feeling safe due to the hateful acts of other teens.  This could be an opportunity to set a precedent, so that LGBTQ teens could feel more safe in their own community,” she wrote.

In total, at least 7 letters were sent to Judge Quillen to raise her awareness of the significance of this event.  These letters were sent to Quillen for her consideration during the preliminary hearing of the adult charged with the misdemeanor crimes.  To show additional support for the Balash family, approximately 10 local residents attended the hearing as well.

There is no question that this case was motivated by bias against the Balashes, who are a well-known gay couple that are involved in many organizations, most notably Spencer Pride. According to the aforementioned affidavit, Owen County Deputy Mitchell Fleetwood interviewed one of the individuals who confessed to the vandalism of the flagpole.  The deputy asked why the teens targeted that specific flagpole. The teen responded by saying that the residents of that home were “Big Time Queers.”

Regardless of this admission by the teen, no action is being taken by the Owen County Prosecutors Office to pursue increased penalties related to these crimes. The recently passed bias crimes legislation in Indiana, which does not serve to adequately define hate-motivated crimes, does not go into effect until July 1, 2019. It is questionable regarding whether the legislation would have enough teeth to be utilized in this type of incident, regardless.  The incident has been voluntarily reported to a National Hate Crimes Hotline due to the advocacy of several concerned citizens.

THE COUPLES’ RESPONSE

Jonathan & Jacob are known to be resilient when encountering these types of activities. When their pride flag has been targeted in the past, the couple has repeatedly responded by increasing the size of the flag, adding the flagpole, installing the limestone wall at the base of the flagpole, & other improvements.   The couple are vocal about the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility, especially in rural areas.

Jonathan Balash is currently serving as the President of Spencer Pride, Inc.

“We will not be pushed back into the closet by an ignorant Minority,” said Jonathan when asked about their responses to these incidents. “We continue to become more & more visible every time that someone tries to use our home as a target for their hate. Their acts are intending to scare us. We aren’t going to respond to their efforts with fear & anger. Instead, we choose to focus our energy on how to continue our work with Spencer Pride to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.”

Jacob is no less passionate about how the couple responds to the acts of hate. He also noted why comprehensive hate crimes legislation is important for Hoosiers. “This was more than trespassing. It was more than vandalism. It was more than theft. This was a concerted effort over several days to violate our property & terrorize my family. It is scary that people would carry out such actions because we are a same-sex household,” Jacob notes.

Jacob went on: “We are proud to live in Owen County & over the past two decades we’ve been overwhelmed by how welcoming our community is. This is where we have decided to raise our son. We aren’t going anywhere.”

In addition to repairing the damage done, the couple is also working to install power at the end of the driveway to support the installation of lights & cameras in order to deter further vandalism & theft. These efforts are challenged by the distance of the mailbox from their home, which is 1/4 mile down the driveway. While the couple works to put these long-term precautions in place, they have added some additional cameras to the space.

Jonathan & Jacob want to emphasize that crimes targeted at the LGBTQ+ community take place every day throughout the world.  “This isn’t a Spencer, Indiana, issue.  This isn’t a rural issue.  This is an issue from the rolling hills of San Francisco to the rolling hills of Spencer,” Jonathan stated.

Jacob Balash is a member of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors & is the Retail Manager for Unity, the organization’s shop in downtown Spencer.

Jacob immediately added: “We want to raise awareness about this event to serve as an example.  Although this did impact us emotionally, we want people to know that it could have been much worse.  Around the world right now, people are being bullied, harassed, fired, & even stoned to death for being gay.  It has to stop.”

ACTIONS THAT CAN BE TAKEN TO SHOW SUPPORT

Individuals who would like to show their support for the Balashes & other victims of hate-motivated crimes towards the LGBTQ+ community can do so in a variety of ways.

  1. Talk about this incident with people. Share it on social media. Engage with a coworker or neighbor. Bringing visibility to specific incidents like this raises awareness of the need for comprehensive hate crimes legislation.
  2. Proudly display a Pride Flag at your home or business. This tells people that you support the LGBTQ+ community & that you don’t want them to have to stand alone. If you do not own a pride flag, you can stop by the Spencer Pride commUnity center in downtown Spencer for a free one. The organization will continue distributing the flags for free over the coming weeks to help promote awareness of the events & to increase visible LGBTQ+ support in the community. Larger flags are available inexpensively on Amazon & at other retailers.
  3. Make a contribution to Spencer Pride on behalf of the Balash Family. The couple is known to be “Big Time Queers” because of their work with the organization. Making a financial donation to continue Spencer Pride’s work sends the message that we will not be bullied & that we will respond to events like this with more education & visibility.
  4. Become a volunteer with Spencer Pride. Our organization is 100% volunteer-powered & we have a lot of work that needs to be done to further educate our community in support of our mission to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.
  5. Attend the upcoming Spencer Pride Festival on June 1st.  Participating in the event shows how important LGBTQ+ people are within our community.  By attending the festival, you allow Spencer Pride to further our important work.

Spencer Pride will continue to provide updates about this matter.  For more information about how you can help Spencer Pride’s mission to make Indiana a more welcoming place, please e-mail info@SpencerPride.org. To learn more about the work of Spencer Pride & to get details about the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival, visit www.SpencerPride.org.

2019 Spencer Pride Festival Marketplace

The 2019 Spencer Pride Festival is fast approaching!  Vendor registration has been exceeding all prior records.    As of April 30, 2019, the following vendors will be participating in our festival marketplace:

  • ACLU of Indiana
  • Allie & Tess
  • Anthem
  • Aprons from the Heartland
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of South-Central Indiana
  • Bill’s Rustic Furniture
  • Bliss Glass
  • Bloomington PRIDE (Includes Prism Youth Community; LGBT Aging & Caring Network;  TASC)
  • Bloomington Meadows Hospital
  • Boston Scientific PACE
  • BrightStarGlass
  • Cardinal Spirits
  • Cardinal Stage Company
  • Catalent Biologics
  • C.H. Douglas & Gray Wealth Management
  • Civilian Brewing Corps.
  • Cruise Planners – Naptown Travel
  • DJ’s Crafts & Sweets
  • DoTerra
  • Drunken Bard
  • El Centro Comunal Latino
  • Elanco
  • First United Church
  • Friends of the Forest
  • Fun Art
  • GenderNexus
  • Geno’s Kettle Corn
  • Grimnir’s Crossroad Kindred
  • Hope Holistice Massage and Untethered Sole Foot Reflexology
  • Indiana Adoption Program
  • Indiana Crossroads Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
  • Indiana Donor Network
  • Indiana Health Centers – Owen County
  • IU Health & Wellness
  • IU Health Bloomington – Positive Link
  • IU School of Social Work
  • Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington
  • Jack of All Braids
  • Jacob’s Photography
  • Laci’s Bags
  • Larry Harris Quilts
  • Life of Love (LOL)
  • LifeJourney Church
  • Mary Kay Skincare
  • Meadows Bakery
  • Monroe County NOW
  • Moon Goddess Arts
  • My Sunshine Pet Apparel
  • National Association of Social Workers – Indiana Chapter
  • New Moon Divination LLC
  • Newton’s Legacy Woodworking & Engraving LLC
  • Osmon Chiropractic
  • Owen County Civic Theatre
  • Owen County Democratic Party
  • Owen County Humane Society
  • Owen County Public Library Bookmobile
  • Paws-Abilities, Inc.
  • PFLAG Hanover/Madison
  • Pink Zebra
  • Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky
  • Pride Lafayette
  • Pride on the Wabash
  • Pride Sweets (brought to you by Spencer Pride)
  • Project Pink Bloc
  • Putnam County Hospital
  • Putnam Pride Initiative
  • Quarryland Men’s Chorus
  • Right on Q Concessions
  • Rye’s Concessions
  • Shine Insurance Agency
  • Silky’s Specialty Items
  • Simply Divine Suds
  • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
  • Spencer Main Street
  • Mark’s United Methodist Church
  • Stonewall Democrats of South Central Indiana
  • Sue Westhues
  • SuPaca Farms, LLC
  • Sweet Valley Ice Cream
  • The Back Door
  • The Litter Box Kitty Rescue
  • The Painted Lady
  • The Satanic Temple Indiana Chapter
  • The Shucker Shack
  • Tivoli Theatre
  • Tree Top Terrace Farms
  • TREES, Inc.
  • Tricoci University
  • Triple M Concessions
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington
  • Uplands PEAK Sanctuary
  • Walmart
  • White River Valley PFLAG – Spencer Chapter
  • Window to My Soul
  • Wired Whimsy
  • Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County
  • ZenWithin

If you are interested in taking part in our festival marketplace, please register today at www.SpencerPride.org/portal.

Note: there are no longer any booth spaces available on the courthouse lawn. All registrations as of April 22, 2019 will be placed on the street in either the food area or carnival area (at the discretion of Spencer Pride, Inc.)

Design Contest Underway; Entries Due April 15th

The official 2019 Spencer Pride Festival t-shirt design contest is now underway. Individuals interested in participating should review the requirements listed below. All entries are due by April 15th.

The artist of the winning design will receive online recognition as well as two free shirts (one to keep & one to share!). This year, all individuals who submit at least one design entry will receive a $10 discount towards the purchase of a t-shirt at the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

Contest Rules

  1. All entries are due April 15, 2019
  2. Entries must be in digital format & emailed to Jonathan@SpencerPride.org or left on a flash drive for Jonathan at the Spencer Pride commUnity center in downtown Spencer.
  3. The contest includes only the front design of the t-shirt. The back design will be created by Spencer Pride.
  4. All designs must refer to the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival and note this year’s festival theme: Millions of Moments of Pride.
  5. All designs must be appropriate for all-ages.
  6. All designs should avoid the usage of gradient fill. Gradient designs are often cost-prohibitive.
  7. Individuals who would like to include the Spencer Pride logo may request the logo from Jonathan (contact info above).
  8. There is no limit to the number of entries submitted per person.

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering to help others is a great way to stay active and vital in your community.  Each hour you volunteer is valued at $24.69. Eight (8) hours per week can save a not-for profit $197.52.  Your generous gift of time and talent can keep an organization up and running.  

 

Here are 3 simple ways to volunteer:

1. Make the small things count:  Sometimes simply going and picking up recycling can make a huge difference to a non-profit organization.
2. Filling the gaps: Local not-for-profits need individuals to help fill in when their regular employees/volunteers cannot be there.  Being an emergency call is a wonderful help.
3. Comfort and Support: Being a shoulder for someone to cry on or the person to give a hug can make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.

Spencer Pride commUnity center is looking for volunteers. Our growth has created more opportunities for you to get involved. If you want to help in your community, be part of an amazing organization, and believe in the mission of Spencer Pride we would LOVE to have you as a part of our volunteer team.  

Opportunities include:

 Staffing the commUnity center retail store during various shifts Wednesday – Saturday. This may sound intimidating, but it’s fun & easy.
 Helping out at the Tivoli on the second Saturday of every month
 Lending a hand on general clean up days at the Center
 Assisting with the Spencer Pride Festival on the first Saturday in June

All of these opportunities come with training! We want you to feel confident volunteering for us.

If you believe in Spencer Pride, we would love to have you as a part of our volunteer family.  Please contact Dana Beth Evans the volunteer Coordinator at dana.beth@spencerpride.org. If you are interested specifically in volunteering at our commUnity center, please contact Jacob Balash at Jacob@SpencerPride.org. You can also call/text him at 812-821-1442.

 

All of our volunteers fill out an application and must submit to a background check. It’s quick, easy, & won’t cost you a thing!

 

If our organization isn’t a good fit for you, please consider volunteering at another Owen County not-for-profit.

 

Spencer Pride Conference to Bring Pride Organizers from Throughout the Midwest

Spencer Pride is set to host the Midwest Pride Conference from March 1-3, 2019.  The conference brings together representatives from LGBTQ+ Pride organizations to share best practices, attend training, & network together.  Attendees are registered from 6 Midwestern states, including Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, & Minnesota.

“Registration for this conference has exceeded our expectations,” said Jonathan Balash, president of Spencer Pride & the lead for the conference. “Last year’s conference in Detroit brought 37 attendees & we hoped to bring 55 this year; instead, we now have 74 registered participants.”  Spencer Pride stopped allowing new registrations once capacity had been achieved.   Most of the Spencer Pride Directors & Pride Festival Leads will attend the event as well.

The conference will primarily occur at the Spencer Pride commUnity center, although some educational sessions will occur at the Tivoli Theatre & activities for that Sunday will take place in the Oak Room of Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park.    Out-of-town attendees will be staying at Canyon Inn.

Some of the conference workshop topics include: Modern Safety & Security at Pride Festivals, How to Have Pride & Make Change in Rural America, Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Pride Festivals, & Inclusion of People of Color in Pride Festivals. There will be a forum on volunteer recruitment & retention, a youth panel, & several “speed topics” segments, which allow for organizations to share best practices with their peers.  Speed topics are grouped into themes around such topics as outreach, promoting healthy lifestyles, expanding pride festivities to span a week or month, & “Show Me the Money.”  This last theme is focused on increasing event sponsorships or decreasing event costs.

In addition to the educational content of the conference, participants will also be exposed to other local attractions while they are in Spencer.  On Friday, March 1, Juniper Gallery, The Dragonfly Gallery, & the Spencer Pride commUnity center retail shop will be open for extended evening hours as a part of a “Shop Local” event.  Live entertainment & refreshments will be available at the commUnity center.  The new Spring collection will be debuted for the event as well, earlier than was originally planned.  Jaime Sweany, owner of The Juniper Gallery, decided to schedule the collection’s debut earlier due to the “Shop Local” event.

Each morning, conference attendees are invited to participate in guided tours at McCormick’s Creek State Park in order to promote healthy lifestyles & show off the area’s most popular attraction.

The Civilian Brewing Corps, a new brew pub in downtown Spencer that is scheduled to open to the public on March 3 will be hosting a ‘soft opening’ on March 2 for Spencer Pride’s guests.  It will allow the pub to test out their menu for the public with a more limited audience prior to their grand opening the next day.

Spencer Pride is spreading out their resources to support as many other local businesses as possible.  Coffee & refreshments will be purchased from both Main Street Coffee & Spencer Coffee Shop.   A local caterer will provide Saturday’s lunch.  On Saturday evening, guests will be welcomed for the first public event in the commUnity center’s upstairs ballroom, where beverages from Owen Valley Winery & Cardinal Spirits will be served.

On Sunday, Spencer Pride is excited to welcome State Senator JD Ford as a keynote speaker.  Ford, who was elected to the Indiana General Assembly this past November, is the first openly gay member of the IGA.

“This is the first conference that Spencer Pride has ever hosted,” said Balash.  “We could not be any happier with the opportunity to host these distinguished guests in our beautiful & welcoming community.”

For more information about Spencer Pride, visit www.SpencerPride.org.

Spencer Pride Board Expresses Thoughts on Legislation Impacting LGBTQ+ Hoosiers

The following statement was issued from the Spencer Pride Board of Directors regarding two pieces of legislation currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly:

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors strongly supports the passage of a comprehensive hate crimes law in Indiana.  This bill would allow for imposing stronger penalties upon conviction of bias-related crimes against people on the basis of another individual’s actual or perceived age, ancestry, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, military service, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.  Indiana is among only 5 states without such legislation.

 

The lack of a hate crimes law in Indiana has had a negative impact on economic development initiatives and has given Indiana the reputation of not being a welcoming state.  This contradicts Spencer Pride’s mission of making Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.

Support for hate crimes legislation is bipartisan.  Hate crimes legislation is supported by Governor Eric Holcomb.  We, as directors of Spencer Pride, encourage all state legislators to vote yes on House Bill 1203 (Bias Motivated Crimes).

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors does not support House Bill 1525 (Biological Sexual Identity), which further exacerbates bias and hate.  In addition to creating a poor environment for our youth, this bill would add burdens to our state schools, including new infrastructure requirements & difficult-to-enforce monitoring requirements.

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors urges legislators to vote NO on House Bill 1525.

Supporting Spencer Pride this #GivingTuesday & All Year

BY LESLIE NIEVES

Here are some great ways to support Spencer Pride year-round, without costing you a cent!

Kroger donates funds to nonprofits through your use of its Kroger Plus Card when you shop. By filling out a short form at Kroger’s customer service desk, you can get a Kroger Plus Card, which provides savings as you shop & discounts on gasoline purchases.  At Kroger’s community rewards website (https://www.kroger.com/topic/kroger-community-rewards-3), you can register your Plus Card to send a percentage of your purchases from Kroger to Spencer Pride. Our code number is EU 230. Forward this information to your friends and family in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, & West Virginia and ask them to support us, too.

Amazon donates a percentage of your purchases to nonprofits when you use its Smile website to shop.  AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, & shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.  On your first visit to AmazonSmile smile.amazon.com you will be prompted to select a charitable organization to receive donations. Search for & select Spencer Pride. AmazonSmile will remember your selection & then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

Many corporations match employee donations to nonprofits. Find out if your employer will match donations &, if your employer offers that benefit, apply to have your donations to Spencer Pride doubled.

Pass this information to your family & friends & ask them to join you in supporting Spencer Pride.

Pass this information to your family and friends and ask them to join you in supporting Spencer Pride.

 

Grant Update

BY JUDI EPP, TREASURER

Judi accepts a check for the Monroe County Board of Realtors from Mark Rogers of the Owen County Community Foundation.

We have made wonderful progress with our grant process! We’ve received the first installment from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington of $1,700, $500 from the Monroe County Board of Realtors for work on the building façade, & $5,000 from the Smithville Charitable Foundation for replacement of the horribly leaky roof in the rear of Unity. The new roof in that area has now been installed! We also received $1,000 from SCI REMC for some interior finishes.

Tarps were placed above the old kitchen area in order to reduce the flow of water into Unity. While the tarps helped, this was only a temporary partial fix.

 

 

 

The roof is nearly complete in this photo. The contracts worked in cold, rainy conditions but managed to complete the roof in just a few days. 

 

 

We’re still working on our 50 From 50 Campaign. We need 35 additional supporters to step up & make a recurring donation of $50 a month to cover our monthly expenses so we can use all grant funds for building restoration & programming. If you haven’t done so, please consider this avenue of support. If you’re already participating, please tell your friends & family! Go to www.spencerpride.org, select donate, & follow the prompts. One time donations are always welcome as well! Your company may even do a matching grant!