Spencer Pride Festival Celebrates 5th Anniversary

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Spencer, IN – The 2011 Spencer Pride Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary on June 4 with a crowd of nearly 950 people, a full-day of live entertainment, and the largest festival marketplace in the event’s history.  Taking place on the lawn of the Owen County Courthouse and the adjacent block of Market Street in downtown Spencer, Indiana, the event brought vendors and festival-goers from throughout Owen County, the White River Valley, and the entire state of Indiana (and beyond). 

Enjoying Pride

Individuals peruse the festival marketplace while some gather in eager anticipation of the next entertainer.

The Spencer Pride Festival, also known as “Indiana’s Rural Pride,” is one of the fastest growing gay pride festivals in the Midwest.  The Spencer Pride Festival is an annual celebration that proudly and honestly supports, promotes, and celebrates the unique values and diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in south central Indiana.  Although Spencer is a community of approximately 2,217 people, it has warmly welcomed the event which brings significant business to local establishments such as Chamber’s Smorgasbord and the Phoenix bar every year.

This year’s event received record sponsorships, donations, vendor participation, and attendance.  On average, the Spencer Pride Festival has grown by over 80% for each of the past 4 years.

Local residents mixed with families who had travelled from Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Evansville, and Louisville (KY) to enjoy the festivities organized by local 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization Spencer Pride, Inc.  There was also a significant number of individuals who came from rural communities throughout the state to show support for the only Hoosier rural gay pride event. 


Volunteers staffing the Center for Sexual Health Promotion booth pose for a quick picture.  The Center for Sexual Health Promotion was one of the Platinum Sponsors of the 2011 Spencer Pride Festival.


“My deceased partner grew up in Spencer at a time when being a gay kid was somewhat challenging, at best. So, I know he was getting a real joy, as was I, out of knowing that Spencer has come a long way!” said Norman Brandenstein, who travelled to Spencer Pride from Indianapolis.  “Spencer Pride Inc. can be very proud of the efforts and organization of all involved, and know that they are effecting change in a great way.”

The Owen Valley High School graduation ceremony – which also took place that afternoon – brought additional out-of-towners to the festival that had come to visit friends and family for the graduation.  The Owen Community Farmer’s Market also helped to bring additional visitors to the festival.  Many of the farmer’s market vendors came for the day to join the festival marketplace,  Festival organizers have ensured that the event overlaps the farmer’s market for the past 4 years in order to maximize the opportunities for both market- and festival-goers.      

While temperatures reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, festival-goers found relief under a misting booth provided by Spencer Pride, Inc.  Ice cream vendors were also very popular and helped attendees to cool-down with frozen treats.  The Purple Cow ice cream stand, which raised money for the horse rescue organization OmniHorse Inc., was one of the most popular food vendors. Their Green Cow and Purple Cow ice cream floats were seen in the hands of many festival-goers while they perused the extensive marketplace spread throughout the south lawn and sides of the courthouse.  Walking tacos from Pride Lafayette, homemade Chili from ChiliHat Concessions, and hickory-smoked pork from Booher’s Barbeque were also quite popular.

Spencer Pride Inc. originally planned on having 40 vendors at this year’s marketplace, a huge increase from the 25 vendors who participated in 2010.  To the organization’s surprise, they needed to make room for a total of 57 vendors. Local vendors included the Owen County Public Library, Middle Way House, Spencer Presbyterian Church, and several artists from the Owen County Art Guild.  Other vendors included Indiana Equality, Cardinal Stage Company, SYCK Girl Games, and the Indiana Youth Group.

Rescue Farm, a dog and cat rescue based in Owen County, was one of 9 vendors in the Animal Welfare section at Spencer Pride.  Rescue Farm volunteers were excited to adopt out 3 dogs at this year’s event.  The canine companions found 

homes in both same-sex and opposite-sex households. 

“Rescue Farm was delighted to, once again, be a part of the LGBTQI Community at this year’s Spencer Pride.  In years past, we have met lots of kind, generous animal advocates but this year was the best yet,” said Rescue Farm’s Jodi Schermerhorn.  Other animal welfare organizations included WildCare Inc., 911 Pet Rescue, and the Exotic Feline Rescue Center.

The largest section of this year’s marketplace was for Health & Wellness. Indiana University Health Positive Link, Indiana State Department of Health Medical Monitoring Project, Olcott Center for Cancer Education, and many other organizations could be found distributing everything from information to sunscreen to condoms.  Wabash Valley PATH provided free RAPID HIV testing in a confidential, air-conditioned van behind the stage.

Live music was coordinated for the event by Spencer Pride, Inc. and local recording venue Stable Studios.  Artists included Megan Maudlin, Mikial Robertson, Mikayla, Quarryland Men’s Chorus, and Amanda Biggs (who is a proud native of Spencer).  2011 marked the first year of live music for Spencer Pride, which started a bit later than planned but turned out to be a popular attraction at the festival.  Uncle Elizabeth’s nightclub in Bloomington provided Top 40 dance music between musical sets and also coordinated the two drag shows that took place.  Drag queens, kings, and choreographed dancers helped wrap up a very diverse line-up of entertainment.

2011 Award Winners

Mai-Lin Poon and Judi Epp pose as the 2011 Award Winners.  Mai-Lin was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award, while Judi received the prestigious Founder’s Award.  Both were instrumental in making this year’s pride a big success.  The awards were presented at the festival by Spencer Pride Inc. president Jonathan Balash.

The 2011 Spencer Pride Festival was sponsored, in part, by the White River Valley PFLAG, the Bloomington Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Indiana University Health Positive Link, the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, The WORD, and bloomingOUT – WFHB Radio. Other sponsors included Oliver Winery, Indy Rainbow Chamber, Spencer Presbyterian Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington.

Partners Lad Pugel and Kyle Blevins had the following to say about their experience at the festival:  “We recently purchased a home in Bloomington and had a little concern about moving to Indiana with its history of conservative politics -to be polite.  This was a perfect, and surprising, welcome to the area.  It let us know we’ve got a strong, supportive community around us and we were proud to be a part of it.”

“Spencer Pride was the kind of festival that said, ‘Look at us!  Look at the resources our communities provide.  Look at how we take care of our youth and fight for political equality.  We’re here to stay and proud of who we are, whatever that may be,’“ they added.

The next Spencer Pride Festival will take place on June 2, 2012.  Organizations interested in sponsoring the event or participating in the marketplace can contact Spencer Pride Inc. through their website at www.SpencerPride.org

Spencer Pride, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and contributions are tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.