#PridePostponed

by Jonathan Balash, President

This web post was originally printed in the Spencer Pride Volunteer Quarterly Newsletter.  To receive a copy of the digital newsletter, please send an e-mail to info@SpencerPride.org with the request to be added to our distribution list.  Thank you!

The Spencer Pride Festival – much like all of us – is experiencing an unprecedented year.   Although we were already thinking ‘out of the box’ with the expansion of the event into the streets & businesses (& away from the courthouse lawn), we have now entered a new chapter with the postponement of the festival.   The postponement decision was not an easy one for our Board of Directors, but it was a necessary one in order to prioritize the health & safety of our community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  How the shifting of the festival date will impact the event remains largely unknown at this juncture, so we will rely on the continued passion & dedication of our volunteers to help us weather this period.

This is the first time in our fourteen-year history when such a delay was required.  For those of us who have been involved with Spencer Pride for many years, April & May are associated with increased volunteer hours to support our early June event.  For me, Spring is to the festival as Fall is to Christmas – it’s an extended, enjoyable, anticipatory season that gives me a great sense of purpose &, quite literally, ‘Pride.’

The first -ever Spencer Pride Festival took place in Cooper Commons park in June 2007.

When we organized the inaugural Spencer Pride Festival in 2007, we chose the first Saturday in June for both symbolic & practical reasons.  Due to the anniversary of the New York City Stonewall Riots, June has historically been known as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the United States.  It was important for us to root our timing with this LGBTQ+ history.  From a more practical perspective, we chose early June as it was the first in the lineup of many local outdoor events & gave us the opportunity to take advantage of folks who had been cooped up awaiting for the chance to get out & enjoy the warm weather & gathering of friends.

A couple of weeks ago the Spencer Town Council approved the new date of our 2020 Spencer Pride Festival: October 17.  This year, the festival will occur not in the early warmth of late Spring, but in the cool (& often unpredictable) Autumn, just weeks after the heat of September & weeks before the cold of the typical Indiana Halloween.

The 2019 Spencer Pride Festival was the organization’s 13th annual pride event (the 12th on the Owen County Courthouse Lawn), welcoming nearly 5,000 people.

Our new date sits well within LGBTQ+ History Month, giving us new ideas about educational programming at the event.  October 17 was also chosen using similar practical logic we utilized more than a decade ago, with us trying to predict just the right moment to offer our community celebration when it would be needed most.  In 2020, with people having been stuck in their homes in self-isolation or quarantine for so long, we know the need will be great to gather together & engage interpersonally.  While we anticipate that we will see stay-at-home restrictions lifted over the next couple of months, we know that many people will be (rightfully) hesitant to gather in large crowds out of fear of catching the virus or contributing to a resurgence of the pandemic.    October may be the perfect time to celebrate the diversity of our community in a responsible fashion.

What should you anticipate will be different about this year’s event?  Who knows?  As a volunteer of Spencer Pride, you have tremendous influence over our festival, especially this year when we are venturing far into uncharted territory.  We know we won’t have a need for the slip-n-slide, but what will replace it?  Sno-cones may be less popular, but does that mean we revert back to the vegetarian chili we (unsuccessfully) tried in June of 2018?  While our vendors should not have to worry about their melting fudge & we know that our furry friends in the Pet Pride Parade will appreciate the cooler October temps, there are still many unknowns for our event right now.

I encourage you – when you are able – to step up your involvement in this year’s festival planning to help us organize an event that will continue to fulfill the needs of our local community, the rural LGBTQ+ community at-large, & the many other allies who rely on our event each year.

There is plenty of time to get involved & many ways to do so.  Please let me know if you want to increase your support of our efforts this year so that I can make you aware of opportunities as they arise. Don’t worry, though – we understand that our festival is not the most important thing you should be working on right now so we won’t be harassing you for a lot of volunteering over the next several weeks.   For the moment, we have decided to minimize as much of our festival planning as possible so that people can focus on what is the most important thing right now: the health & safety of themselves, their families, & our community.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the festival this year.  While I may not have all the answers you seek, I welcome the opportunity to hear from you.  You can text/call me at 812-821-3073 & e-mail me at Jonathan@SpencerPride.org.

Jonathan