Owen County Commissioners Pass Controversial Ordinance During Winter Storm “Watch”

As the wet snow of a winter storm fell to the ground, concerned citizens gathered in the first floor of the Owen County Courthouse last night to attend the county commissioners meeting.  They observed perhaps the coldest site in the county – the icy hearts of the Owen County Commissioners as they passed unceremoniously the contentious special events ordinance.  The ordinance is expected to significantly impact special events that call downtown Spencer home.

The crowd at the courthouse was relatively light compared to recent meetings, with just under 50 people in attendance.  The challenge was not getting people excited to attend, but rather, overcoming the harsh road conditions present throughout the county.  Owen County was officially under an “Orange” Watch status, which means that “conditions are threatening to the safety of the public” (information taken from www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory/).  During a Watch status “only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended.”

Travel restrictions in place, it seemed to be the perfect conditions for the Owen County Commissioners to pass the controversial ordinance.  At every opportunity over the past 3 months, Commissioners Brothers, Burton, & Williamson have seemingly taken whichever path would result in the least public engagement.  Shifting agenda topics, adjusting meeting locations & times, failing to address sound equipment issues, & a variety of other methods were undertaken either intentionally or ignorantly (or both) to reduce public participation on this topic.  Unfortunately, this has also included outright lying to their constituents as well.  Perhaps these efforts were made because the vast majority of the public feedback on this matter has been in opposition of the ordinance & the commissioners’ attempts to stifle Spencer’s downtown events.

Owen County Commissioners Williamson, Brothers, & Burton at the December 16th meeting.

County Commissioners apparently feel strong enough about the ordinance to push it forward amidst great public backlash.  Oddly enough, they have provided only weak justification for their work when questioned by their constituents or the media.  Defending their position on the special events ordinance has proved challenging, given their inability thus far to honestly explain the reasons for pursuing the ordinance to begin with.

To be fair, the special events ordinance had been improved from its earlier iteration, but it still needed much more work before it could become an ordinance that would truly add value to the county.  Instead, the commissioners moved to quickly pass the ordinance 3-0 after the county attorney spent more than twenty minutes reading the ordinance aloud to the public.  There was no discussion among the commissioners or by members of the audience prior to the vote.

The revised ordinance wording was new to most people in the audience, possibly including one or more of the commissioners themselves; it had only been shared with the public 9 hours prior to its passing.  According to County Commissioners President Jeff Brothers the ordinance had been ready on Friday for his review, although why it had not been shared with the public at that time– & why this conflicted with other reports that the attorney was still working on it through the weekend – was unclear.

Changes that had been made to the ordinance were positive, specifically in reducing fees & clarifying the application process.  Many of the changes recommended by Spencer Pride & the Spencer Downtown Event Coalition were made.

Unfortunately, the changes made to the ordinance were less than half of those recommended.  The vague “sexually suggestive” wording had been removed & recommendations by a conservative citizen to add a “no vanity parades” provision were ignored, however, new wording about nudity was added & issues related to a lack of substantive due process were completed overlooked.  In addition, vague guidance about the application of waivers remained.  This part of the ordinance is ripe for litigation if county commissioners are not thoughtful in their administration of the new ordinance.

Passage of the ordinance marks sweeping changes in the accessibility, restrictions, & cost associated with the usage of county property during special events.  Upset members of the audience vocally expressed their frustrations at the moment that the ordinance went up for the vote.  Commissioner Brothers chose to raise his voice over the members of the audience in order to drown them out; this after he expressed frustration aloud that he ‘forgot his gavel.’  (At a recent meeting of the Commissioners in the middle of November, Brothers had ineffectively garnered his gavel to shut down debate on another topic.)  Argument between the Commissioners & citizens did ensue, however, it generally avoided the drama of the prior meeting in that accusations of criminal conduct were fairly minimal in the newest exchange.

Supporters of Spencer’s downtown events wore buttons during Monday evening’s meeting.

The entire debate over the special events ordinance made several things clear:

  1. The Owen County Community is highly supportive of all of its downtown events, including the Spencer Pride Festival.
  2. Spencer’s downtown events are highly impactful to downtown businesses as well as local employers. The success of these events is vital to these organizations.
  3. Citizens care tremendously about the success of our county & about maintaining its reputation as a welcoming place to live, work, & play.
  4. Owen County Commissioners do not respect each other, other county officials, or the constituents that they represent.

Where Spencer Pride goes next is clear & has been since this debate began.  We are in the midst of a major shake-up for our 2020 festival which has already yielded high levels of interest from new sponsors, vendors, & potential attendees.  Although the commissioners may have passed this ordinance in an attempt to diminish the success of the Spencer Pride Festival, the ultimate outcome of this effort will have been the opposite:  we are currently on track to have the biggest, boldest, & best Pride Festival in our history.

We will continue to keep the public informed about the impact of the special events ordinance & our detailed plans for the 2020 Spencer Pride Festival.  In the meantime, individuals who want to show their support to Spencer Pride can do so in a variety of ways.  We accept donations of cash as well as volunteer time.  We offer a variety of festival sponsorships for organizations.  For more information on how to get involved & to show support for our respected annual festival, please reach out to festival director Jonathan Balash at Jonathan@SpencerPride.org or (812) 821-3073.

Open Letter to the Owen County Commissioners

Commissioners Brothers, Williamson, & Burton:

On behalf of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors, I am writing to provide our feedback on the recently proposed special events ordinance for Owen County.

Spencer Pride supports efforts to improve the county’s special events ordinance. Making sure that taxpayer-funded county resources are appropriately managed and protected is important. We agree that organizations, such as Spencer Pride, should bear some of the costs associated with events they coordinate, regardless of the significant financial revenue brought into the community by these events. We want to ensure that all organizations have equal access to county resources and that county resources are made available to all organizations which use it respectfully and follow reasonable efforts to apply for its use.

Food vendors fill the parking lot of the Owen County Courthouse during the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival

There are two ordinances currently in effect that have been adopted by Owen County Commissioners. The Commissioners have admitted during recent public meetings, that the County has not been ensuring compliance to these existing ordinances, imposing existing fees, or assessing damages to county property that may have been caused during one or more special events. While focusing on effective and efficient compliance to current ordinances would have been more fiscally prudent, Owen County Commissioners have taken a more costly and time-consuming path, resulting in the proposal of an extensive new ordinance. This new ordinance tests the limits of the county’s authority and sets up a circumstance ripe for litigation.

The draft special events ordinance as proposed by Owen County Commissioners during the October 21st meeting is greatly flawed. We encourage Owen County Commissioners to reevaluate and improve several areas of the ordinance to ensure clarity of expectations and the implementation of a fair process for utilization of county resources. 

Our concerns can be grouped into the following themes:

  1. Unnecessarily vague requirements that could be used capriciously and invite litigation, which will cost tax-payers far more than the funds brought in by the new ordinance.
  2. Excessive costs as compared to similar ordinances in communities throughout the Midwest, including other Indiana towns and cities.
  3. Highly restrictive limitations on the utilization of county property which create unreasonable financial and personnel burdens for organizations that host special events for the community.
  4. Compliance with requirements in one area of the proposed ordinance creates a direct conflict with the ability to comply with other areas of the same document.

If enacted as written, this ordinance would impact the Spencer Pride Festival in the following ways:

  • decreasing services/activities offered
  • burdening local businesses with increased participation costs to offset extensive new fees
  • constraining accessibility to some aspects of the festival by those with physical limitations
  • creating new safety concerns
The 2019 Spencer Pride Festival welcomed more than 4,500 people to the Owen County Courthouse, including countless families who chose to spend their day among friends.

All other special events in downtown Spencer would also be impacted, some more significantly than others. Special events are an important lifeblood for our downtown community.  Our Commissioners should work to ensure that these events are supported and cultivated.

Given that neither current rules nor fees have been appropriately managed, many people have questioned why the Commissioners have approached resolution of their concerns by creating more complicated restrictions and establishing higher fees. In addition, County Commissioners have demonstrated both a lack of transparency and willingness to deceive taxpayers regarding their motivation behind these efforts. Based on feedback provided by County Officials and our experience with some of the Commissioners, we believe that these efforts have been undertaken to undermine the success of the Spencer Pride Festival, which celebrated its 13th annual festival this past June with more than 4,500 people in attendance.

The Spencer Pride Festival has always been a family-friendly event, rooted deeply within Owen County. For 12 of the past 13 years the event has taken place on the grounds of the Owen County Courthouse, where it has brought thousands of people from within and outside of our community. Some of the largest employers in Owen County have booths at our festival and see the value it brings to the community.  In 13 years, there have been zero arrests for lewd behavior during our festival and no citations have been issued to Spencer Pride for violations of county or town ordinances. While Spencer Pride has always provided evidence of the county-required liability insurance, we have never been accused by the county or town of causing damage to county facilities and therefore never needed to make a claim on our insurance. This is due to the responsible behavior of our volunteers, vendors, and event participants.

The Spencer Pride Festival has helped drive awareness to our wonderful community. It has also improved the reputation of our county, which unfortunately has suffered an abundance of negative press over the years, mostly related to corrupt government officials. We believe that our event has been a success because of the need for places that allow authentic self-expression. We also believe that we have been successful due to our particular approach within our community. Rather than drive change through protest and litigation, we start with engagement and education. We treat people with respect and follow the “golden rule.”

We respectfully request that Owen County Commissioners work with Spencer Pride, other local organizations, and businesses to craft a more practical ordinance that achieves all of the righteous goals outlined in the draft ordinance’s introduction. We ask that the Commissioners reevaluate their motivations for undertaking these efforts and ensure that they are acting as responsible agents without ideological bias for the citizens of our community. The community has clearly shown its support for downtown events like the Spencer Pride Festival, and we sincerely hope that the Commissioners can rise to meet the expectations of the citizens who elected them.

Respectfully submitted,



Jonathan A. Balash


Spencer Pride, Inc.

Open Letter to Owen County Commissioners



Janet Rummel, Marketing Director & SDEC Liaison:  Janet@SpencerPride.org, 765-481-8798

Jonathan Balash, President & Festival Director: Jonathan@SpencerPride.org, 812-821-3073

Spencer Pride Participates in Spencer Downtown Event Coalition

The first Spencer Downtown Event Coalition was well-attended. (Photo Courtesy: Casey Shively)

Supporters of Spencer’s Downtown Events showed up this evening at the Spencer Pride commUnity center for the first-ever meeting of the Spencer Downtown Event Coalition.  More than 41 individuals were present to discuss the current situation with the Commissioners & to develop a plan for constructively moving forward toward resolution.

Ultimately, the goal of the Coalition is to save & support Spencer’s downtown events by ensuring continued access to Owen County Courthouse grounds & facilities.  Access to this public space is at risk due to efforts of the Commissioners to potentially restrict or eliminate use of the courthouse building, lawn, & parking lot for special events.

A key outcome of this evening’s meeting was the formation of an advisory committee to review proposals from the Commissioners & to make recommendations  about how ordinances can be improved to better support downtown events.  Spencer Pride, as an organizer of Spencer’s largest event on the square, was identified as one of the groups that would be represented on the committee.  Janet Rummel, Spencer Pride’s External Events Coordinator, will serve on the committee as the Pride Festival representative.

Other committee representatives were identified from downtown event organizers as well as local businesses & residents & influential organizations.

Jonathan Balash was selected as the Coalition’s spokesperson.  Balash is presently president of Spencer Pride.

“The passionate engagement expressed this evening is consistent with what we’ve been seeing from everyone when it comes to preserving our downtown events,” said Balash.  “Our community has come forth resoundingly to say ‘our events are important to us & they must stay’ & our goal as a Coalition is to help ensure that our Commissioner’s understand this & are equipped to help our events thrive.”

Individuals who want to support the Spencer Downtown Event Coalition are advised to:

  • Join the “Spencer Downtown Event Coalition” on Facebook
  • Spread the word about the Coalition & the Commissioners’ efforts to curtail access to the Courthouse & grounds for downtown events
  • Purchase a “Downtown Event Supporter” yard sign when they become available later this month
  • Contact the Owen County Commissioners to express their support for Spencer’s downtown events, including the Spencer Pride Festival

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.

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.)

Lots of Sunshine & Pride at 2018 Festival

The 2018 Spencer Pride Festival took place this past Saturday in downtown Spencer. An estimated 3,000 people filled the courthouse lawn & adjacent streets shopping, participating in different activities, & enjoying the live, local entertainment from the Ivy Tech Stage. The day was sunny & warm, making it ideal for an early June outdoor event.


The Spencer Pride commUnity center, the local headquarters of festival organizer Spencer Pride, Inc., was open throughout the event & hosted many different activities. 1,400 people entered the doors of the commUnity center that day.

Nearly 30 raffles were drawn in the afternoon, with participation in the raffles doubling from the prior year. The $4200 worth of raffle items were all donated by individuals & businesses in the region, including many of the vendors of the commUnity center’s retail shop, Unity.

Some of the big raffle winners included: Glenda Breeden (hot air balloon ride for 2), Debbie Messer (rainbow Adirondack chair), Sienna Bates (rainbow Adirondack chair), Dan Bixler (2 tickets to James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt concert), Amanda Terrell (overnight stay for 2 at the French Lick Resort, plus $100 food voucher), Jane Rubeck (Cardinal Spirits Distillery Tour & Bottle Set), & Pauline Allan (4 tickets to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum plus A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo Book).

Two 50-50 drawings took place. Nearly $400 in prize money was awarded. One of the recipients was Big Brothers Big Sisters, a local not-for-profit organization.

New this year was “Drag Queen Storytime,” which took place at 2:30 in the afternoon in the commUnity center’s Gathering Place. Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash said that he anticipated only about 10 children to participate in this first-ever event. Much to his surprise & happiness, more than 30 kids took part in the reading.

“Seeing so many youths attentively watching Pat Yo Weave read The Princess & the Pizza was wonderful!” Balash said exuberantly. “So many kids filled the Gathering Place that there was hardly room for their parents. They had to stand at the edges of the room, spilling into both the meeting room & shop.”

Rainbow Crossing guards were attentively standing at the corner of Main Street & Franklin Street all day, ensuring that festival attendees could pass safely across the street to get to & from the commUnity center. Current construction in downtown Spencer has increased the utilization of Franklin Street & Spencer Pride organizers wanted to do everything possible to prevent any accidents. The Rainbow Crossing guards proved to be a big success as there were no safety
incidents that day. The volunteers serving as guards proudly waved rainbow flags as they escorted people along the crosswalk.


The marketplace of festival booths was the largest in Spencer Pride history: 105 organizations participated this year. Most of the food vendors were located in the parking lot of the courthouse. Food vendors included Spencer Main Street, who sold out of their famous barbecue during the festival. Meadow’s Bakery sold fresh pretzels & Geno’s Kettle Corn offered a diverse array of popcorn, including their rainbow mix. There were many vendors offering typical fair foods, like elephant ears & nachos. New this year was a vendor selling vegetarian chili. Nate’s Candy Jar offered a special rainbow fudge to visitors of their booth.

More than 50 booths offered items & services for sale, with the balance of the marketplace consisting of not-for-profit organizations who used the festival to share information about their missions. While there were many vendors who had participated in past Spencer Pride Festivals, there were also many new organizations & businesses represented including Civilian Brewing Corp & Friends of the Forest.

Moon Goddess Arts won the ‘most colorful booth’ prize. Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County won for ‘most engaging booth.’ Festival attendees could be seen wearing rainbow “Safe Place” sunglasses throughout the grounds all afternoon. These were one of the many prizes available at the YSB booth. Both organizations will have their 2019 vendor fees waived due to their efforts this year.

Festival sponsor IU Health Bloomington offered free HIV testing throughout the day. The confidential testing took place at the Tivoli Theatre thanks to a partnership between the theatre & Spencer Pride organizers. IU Health employees were also on hand to answer questions about PrEP, a tool proven highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.

Cardinal Spirits managed the Pride Lounge for the second year, responsibly serving their locally-made spirits to attendees age 21 & over.


The main stage of the festival, sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington, featured a diverse array of artists. From the youthful rock of Inkwell Moon to the worldly sounds of Adam Riviere, there was something for everyone this year. The Trip returned for their second year at Spencer Pride, increasing their audience this year due to their growing popularity & recent appearance on Indianapolis television station WISHTV. The Quarryland Men’s Chorus, which has become a Spencer Pride staple over the years, introduced their new director to the crowd. Different Drummer Belly Dancers, The Retrovales, Owen County Civic Theatre, Zumba with Nancy Emerson, & the soulful sound of Window to My Soul rounded out the lineup.  Stable Studios provided the high quality sound equipment throughout the day.

The day began with the fourth annual Pet Pride Parade, which included a couple of dozen contestants. “Max’ a furry canine companion, was the winner this year. Max won a basket of goodies donated by Town & County Veterinary Clinic in Spencer.

The culmination of the day’s entertainment was the Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show, which hosted 5 queens this year. The Spencer Pride Festival is the only place in the Midwest where a drag show is performed on a county courthouse lawn.

This year, festival organizers re-branded their Market Street family fun area as Camden’s Carnival. The carnival, which was named for the organization’s gender non-binary raccoon mascot, encompassed most of the street to the south of the courthouse. A huge 8-foot tall painting of Camden stood at the center of the carnival, eagerly awaiting photo opportunities with carnival participants. Camden’s Carnival consisted of multiple games, inflatable activities, Aerialogy, & a small vintage auto show. The carnival was a huge hit with the crowd this year which continued to include an increasing number of families. Face painting & the deluxe slip-n-slide were the most popular elements of the carnival this year.


Jacob Balash was presented with Spencer Pride’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by the organization’s leadership. Judi Epp, treasurer & volunteer coordinator, noted that Balash’s contribution was mainly focused on the renovation of the commUnity center.

“Jacob volunteered countless hours to get the center ready for opening. From the day we closed on the purchase of our new building, we had completed the 1st floor renovations within 4 months. Much of that was due to Jacob’s passion & persistence.”

Epp elaborated further: “Jacob worked from morning to night many days, ensuring that we were ready for the next contractor or next phase of work. Our goal was not an easy one to accomplish, but thanks to volunteers like Jacob, we completed the work on time.”

“Spencer Pride is 100% volunteer-fueled, & without the help of dedicated volunteers like Jacob, we wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Epp concluded.


Volunteers at Spencer Pride, Inc., were exuberant with the success of this year’s festival.

“With the growth in attendance this year we saw many new faces & increased participation in our activities,” said secretary Katie Zuber. “Many of the new attendees were young families who have heard about the family-focused & welcoming Spencer Pride Festival. We hope that they enjoyed their first event with us & that this will be the first of many more to come.”

Zuber encouraged individuals who attended the event to share their feedback via their online festival survey, which can be found at www.SurveyMonkey.com/r/SpencerPride.

Sponsors of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival included: Cook Medical, Boston Scientific, Walmart, French Lick Resort, Tivoli Theatre, BloomingOUT, & Spencer Evening World, among many more.

The next Spencer Pride Festival will be held on June 1, 2019, and will be the 13th annual event. Interested individuals are encouraged to stay up-to-date on Spencer Pride’s work by continuing to visit their website and Facebook pages.

Spencer Pride organizers expressed appreciation for attendees, vendors, & sponsors of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival. It was the best attended & most engaging Spencer Pride event yet.
More information about Spencer Pride and the Spencer Pride Festival can be found at throughout our website.


Spencer Downtown Businesses Increase Support for 2018 Festival

One sign of the progress that Spencer Pride is making in the local community is certainly the number of downtown businesses who have chosen to participate in the festival marketplace.    When we first began our festival, that number was zero.  Over the years, it has steadily increased.  This year, we more than doubled the number of downtown supporters!

Each year, businesses are solicited to participate in our festival marketplace.  Businesses with a home in downtown Spencer, however, generally aren’t interested in having a booth on the courthouse lawn since they already have their business nearby.  Instead, we approach those businesses with a different offer for participation:  for just $25, we will list them on our festival map so that everyone knows that they are supporters of the festival.  This helps encourage the thousands of festival attendees to visit these locations.  In addition to recognition on the festival map, this year these businesses were also able to get brand-new decals for their shop windows to proudly advertise their support of Spencer Pride.

In 2017, 7 downtown businesses participated in the festival.  This year the number jumped to a whopping 17!  This is due to both the increasing appreciation of our event as well as the revitalization of the Spencer downtown.  The complete list of downtown participants in the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival is listed below.

We really appreciate the support of all of these businesses & strongly encourage festival attendees to visit everyone on the list frequently!


All About You Salon

Brown & Associates

Casida Barber Shop

Civilian Brewing Corp.

Dragonfly Gallery (also a sponsor & donor to our raffle!)

Historic Tivoli Theatre (also a sponsor & donor to our raffle!)

Jit’s Thai Bistro

Owen County Community Foundation

Owen County Chamber of Commerce

Owen Valley Winery Tasting Room

Playhouse Toys & Games

Presto Printing

Spencer Pride commUnity center

Sweet Oven Visitors Center

Unique Hair Designs

Watts Law Office (also a sponsor!)

West & Co. Realty

Official 2018 Shirts On Sale

“Remember the Past, Create the Future” is the official theme of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival.  For our t-shirt design this year, we went a step further.  It’s not enough to simply talk the talk, but to walk the walk.  As a result we appended “Start Now” to the theme & plastered it on the front of the shirt.  On the back, to continue with the action-oriented approach, the design reads “I am working to make Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.”

This year’s shirt is primarily available in a black v-neck as well as a purple crew neck, in sizes small through 4XL.  Some other colors & styles are available in very limited quantities.

The shirts are available for sale now at the Spencer Pride commUnity center for $19.99 each or 2 for $29.99.  We expect the shirts to be wildly popular at the festival on June 2.

Excitement Builds for Festival Marketplace

The Spencer Pride Festival marketplace is bigger than ever this year; it’s also more diverse.  In total, the marketplace consists of 110 organizations & businesses that are spread out throughout the courthouse lawn & adjacent streets.  A complete listing of all vendors participating in this year’s event is located below.

We spoke with several individuals who will be part of this year’s marketplace to understand why they are participating in the event.

Matthew Barron, an author, remembered when he first learned about Spencer Pride years ago: “I used to drive through Spencer on my way from my hometown Washington to Terre Haute or Indianapolis,” he said.  “I was shocked when I heard they had a Pride Festival in little old Spencer!  When I was in school, small-town Indiana was not known for its tolerance.”  Why is Matthew participating again this year?  “I’m always looking for opportunities to sell my writing & want to support the festival,” he notes.  “The festival is not as over-stimulating as the Pride Festivals in the larger cities & I meet such a great, diverse bunch of people.”

In addition to some of his previous books, Matthew will have his brand new urban fantasy graphic novel, The Brute: Chasing Shadows.

Matthew represents one of about 45 of our vendors who will have items or services for sale at the event.  In addition to the retail vendors, there are many not-for-profit organizations that are providing information about their services, many of which are free or reduced cost.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky will also have a booth.  Leslie Montgomery, Regional Education & Outreach Manager of PPINK, explained what festival-goers can look forward to this year.  “We will have our game wheel where people can test their knowledge about sexual & reproductive health,” Leslie explained.  “They will have an opportunity to share their stories about the care they’ve received at PPINK.”

Leslie is looking forward to Spencer Pride this year.  “Spencer Pride is among the best Pride events in the state.  They take good care of their vendors…. The people who visit the table are always friendly, welcoming, & supportive.”  Leslie was honored last year when the PPINK was recognized as the “Most Interactive” booth at the festival.

Becky Brown, who represents the Owen County Humane Society, is excited about participating in the marketplace again this year.  She says that the humane society participates in the festival because “we love supporting our local community and giving our dogs and cats every available opportunity to be adopted into great homes.”  This year the humane society will have information on spay & neutering.  They will also have dogs available for adoption.  Becky recalls one of her favorite memories from a prior festival was watching friend Pam Browning walk a goat around the courthouse while participating in the Pet Pride Parade.

There will also be booths that represent for-profit enterprises, but that are not actively selling anything at the festival.  These organizations are often there to support the LGBTQ community & drive awareness of their brand.

Oscar Saucedo is an employee of Boston Scientific & a member of their employee resource group PACE.  Oscar said that they participate each year in order to support Diversity & Inclusion.  Last year was Oscar’s first year at Spencer Pride (although Boston Scientific PACE has been a supporter for several years).  Oscar found the event “eye opening on how great & family-oriented a small-town pride festival could be.”

At the Boston Scientific PACE booth, there will be information on the organizations D&I program.  There will be medical device information & games.  They will also have an on-site talent acquisition table for community engagement & employment opportunities.

Boston Scientific PACE is also a sponsor of this year’s event.

In addition to the booths in the marketplace, there is a significant increase in the number of businesses downtown that have chosen to advertise as supporters of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival.  Stay tuned for more information about these businesses on our website.

The Spencer Pride Festival Marketplace will be open from 10 AM until 5 PM on Saturday, June 2.  For more information about the Spencer Pride Festival, please browse other pages on our website.


2018 Festival Vendors (as of May 26th)

ACLU of Indiana
Adam Riviere
All Wrapped Up / Bonefide Creations
Americans United for Separation of Church & State
Area 10 Agency on Aging
Author Matthew Barron
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana
Bloomington Meadows Hospital
Bloomington PRIDE
Boston Scientific PACE
Cardinal Stage Company
Civilian Brewing Corp.
Cook Group
Cruise Planners – Naptown Travel
Denise Dyche State Farm
DJ’s Crafts & Sweets
Drunken Bard Creations
E. Thomasina Marili
Earth Drops
Eden Connections / DoTERRA
First United Church of Bloomington
French Lick Resort
Friends of the Forest
Geno’s Kettle Corn
Grimnir’s Crossroad Kindred
Indiana Adoption Program
Indiana Crossroads Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Indiana Department of Gender Studies / Kinsey Institute
Indiana Forest Alliance
Indiana Health Centers – Owen County
Indiana Stonewall Democrats
Indiana Youth Group
Indy Pride, Inc.
Indy Rainbow Chamber of Commerce/JB Screening, Inc.
IU Health & Wellness
IU Health Bloomington – Positive Link
Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington
Judah Concessions / BellyBuster
Laci’s Bags
Larry Harris Quilts
LifeJourney Church
Meadows Bakery
Microblading by Michele
Middle Way House
Monroe Co. National Organization for Women (NOW)
Moon Goddess Arts
Nate’s Candy Jar
National Youth Advocate Program
Newton’s Legacy Woodworking & Engraving LLC
No Rain No Rainbows
Osmon Chiropractic Center
Owen County Civic Theatre
Owen County Democratic Party
Owen County Extension Homemakers
Owen County Humane Society
Owen County Progressives
Owen County Public Library Bookmobile
Paws-Abilities, Inc.
PFLAG Hanover/Madison
Pink Zebra
Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky
Press Puzzles
Pride Lafayette, Inc.
Prism Youth Community
Proudly Vegetarian
Putnam Pride Initiative
Quarryland Men’s Chorus
Right on Q Concessions
Rye’s Concessions
Silky’s Specialty Items
Spencer Evening World
Spencer Main Street
Stable Studios
Sue Westhues
SuPaca Farms, LLC
The Back Door
The Well Armed Woman
This, That, & Mor
Tivoli Theatre
Touch of Nature
Tree Top Terrace Farms
Triple M Concessions
Unitarian Universalist Church
Uplands PEAK Sanctuary
White River Valley PFLAG – Spencer Chapter
Window to My Soul
Wired Whymsy
Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County

Spencer Pride Festival Approaching!

On Saturday, June 2, the family-friendly Spencer Pride Festival returns to downtown Spencer. This year’s event marks the 12th annual Spencer Pride Festival.  This family-friendly & admission-free event is sponsored by Cook Medical, Boston Scientific, IU Health Bloomington, area Walmart stores & many other local businesses & organizations.

The event, while known as a rural LGBTQ+ pride festival, is open to everyone.  “We welcome all to join us in celebration of our community & its diversity,” says Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride’s president.  “The festival is an inclusive event for everyone, regardless of how they identify, who they love, how much money they make, or where they live.”  The Spencer Pride Festival is most well known for it’s family-focused activities in a small town setting.

Rex Hinkle, President of Cook Aviation & Spencer Pride Director, is looking forward to the festival & is pleased with the organization’s success.  “I am so proud to be a part of Spencer Pride.   We have done so much within the community & surrounding areas in service of our mission, which is focused on education of LGBTQ+ issues,” said Hinkle.

Hinkle is also a member of the Quarryland Men’s Chorus, a very popular group that is returning to Spencer Pride again this year. The chorus’s set is one of many performances in this year’s all-day line-up of live entertainment on the Ivy Tech Stage. Several other prior year’s performers will be returning as well, including the Different Drummer Belly Dancers, Retrovales, Window To My Soul, The Trip, and others.

The annual pet parade will kick off the festival’s line-up of performances & will begin at its newly scheduled time of 10 am. The public is invited to bring pets, or be in attendance to cheer them on, as these fabulous fashionistas strut their stuff, with their fur-less human companions in tow, around the courthouse for a funny, furry, & lighthearted show to start to the day.

Adam Rivière will take the Ivy Tech stage by storm with his worldly sounds that will both educate & entertain. “Music was created to celebrate community, and I get that opportunity at Spencer Pride, which makes playing for such wonderful people and a great event all the better!”

Owen County Civic Theatre will be taking the stage at 1pm, giving everyone a taste of their upcoming musical, “Grease,” with local band, Inkwell Moon, scheduled to perform afterward.

The “Ladies of Spencer Pride” Drag Show will take place at its usual time of 4pm. The Spencer Pride Festival is the only place in the Midwest where a drag show takes place on the lawn of a county courthouse and is a crowd favorite. A new event, “Drag Queen Storytime,” will be offered in the Gathering Place at the commUnity center, with special guest Pat Yo Weave, at 2:30pm.

A highlight of the festival each year is the marketplace of vendors. This year’s marketplace will not disappoint as it will be the largest ever for the festival. Over 100 vendors of all kinds will be selling items, cooking up tasty treats & distributing information to attendees. 2500 people are expected to attend this year’s event, maintaining the healthy attendance seen from last year’s celebration.

As always IU Health Bloomington will be providing free confidential HIV testing throughout the day.

Camden’s Carnival will be loaded with great options, including a bounce house, toddler town, an all-ages deluxe slip-n-slide, the new addition of games & more! Bloomington Aerialogy will be returning to perform & give aerial silk lessons all afternoon.

The new Spencer Pride commUnity center will be open during its usual hours from 10 am until 7 pm that day.   On May 22nd Spencer Pride was given the Annual Preservation Award from local civic organization Owen County Preservations.  The award was due to the organization’s establishment of the Spencer Pride commUnity center in the historic I.O.R.M. Lodge building in downtown Spencer.

During the festival, the commUnity center will be offering its typical fantastic selection of unique items made by local artists and craftspeople. As a special treat for attendees, the commUnity center will also be the hub for the many items being raffled off during the event. An overnight stay for 2 at French Lick Resort, plus breakfast and a spending spree is just ONE of the many amazing items in the raffle.   There will also be 50-50 drawings throughout the afternoon.

Taking into consideration the increased traffic on Franklin Street due to road construction, pairs of volunteers are teaming up to serve as Rainbow Crossing Guards to ensure safe crossing for festival goers to and from the commUnity center the day of the event.

The festival is an event coordinated by Spencer Pride, Inc. Spencer Pride is a 100% volunteer-led 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization established in 2007. Volunteers are responsible for everything that the organization does.   Between setup, the festival, & cleanup, volunteers have already committed more than 500 hours to this year’s event. This does not include the hundreds of hours required to plan the annual festival.

All of this keeps volunteer coordinator Judi Epp quite busy.  “It’s hard, but fulfilling work,” says Epp.  “I feel like the luckiest person in the organization because I get to interact with so many wonderful people.”

The mission of Spencer Pride is to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.    For more information about the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival or the other work of Spencer Pride, Inc, browse other pages within our website.

The Deets about Our 2018 Entertainment


In April the lineup of entertainment for the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival was announced.  This year’s entertainers on the Ivy Tech Bloomington Stage include past favorites & hot new talent as well.  With the festival now less than 2 weeks away, we wanted to provide a further glimpse into who we have on stage this year.

Moving from its traditional mid-day time to kick off this year’s event will be the Spencer Pride Pet Parade.  This furry, funny, light-hearted event is expected to include dozens of local pets & their fur-less human companions.  At 10:30, attendees will be encouraged to get up and participate in Zumba with Nancy Emerson.  The adrenaline won’t be slowing down when the Different Drummer Belly Dancers take to the stage at 11:00, either.

Having been unable to attend last year’s festival, Adam Riviere returns to the stage again this year with his worldly sounds that will both educate & entertain. “Music was created to celebrate community, and I get that opportunity at Spencer Pride, which makes playing for such wonderful people and a great event all the better!” says Adam.  We asked him what has been memorable for him about participating in the Spencer Pride Festival.  Besides the other performers & diverse marketplace, Adam’s answer was simple: “what sticks out the most is the joy everyone has being a part of it.”  He continues, “The connections everyone makes being at Spencer Pride are tremendous.  I hear vendors mentioning how much they achieve being there compared to other events due to the strong community – I couldn’t agree more!”  He wasn’t about to give us a preview of what we should expect this year, however.  “Why ruin the surprise?” he teases.  “But, I will say get ready for some extra shimmy in your near future!”

At 12:30 Window to My Soul will take stage.  This act features Kali Bentley, a young talent who has been a popular act at the festival for a few years.  Kali performs at Spencer Pride “because it’s a festival that celebrates love, life, & acceptance.”  She recalls a particular moment the first year she performed at Spencer Pride, when she sang an original song titled “Savanna.”  The song was about losing a friend to a car crash.  “After my set,” Kali remembers, “someone in a wheelchair visited me at my booth and spoke to me about how they connected with it.  They’d also been in a similar situation.  It was honestly so difficult not to cry.  They gave me hugs and on their way.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.”  Many people who heard her sing “Savanna” undoubtedly felt the same way.


This year, the audience can look forward to some new music from Kali.  She will be singing “A World So Lost,” which is a “commentary on how we cling to anything to make us feel whole, without realizing that we are already whole & perfect the way we are.”

Owen County Civic Theatre will be taking the stage by storm at 1:00, hopefully giving everyone a taste of their upcoming musical, “Grease.”  This local group performs multiple plays & musicals each year at the historic Tivoli Theatre.

At 1:30 The Retrovales will be front & center.  This duo includes SarahJayne Balash, who has been involved in the entertainment lineup as both a solo performer as well as part of The Retrovales.  Why has SarahJayne returned so many times? “I’m very thankful to be able to create & do what I love, something that comes so naturally to me, without any prejudice or question,” she says.  “There are people in the world who don’t have that privilege, so if I can share my craft for an event that does so well to bring light to those people, fighting for their fair treatment, then I want to be there.  It’s important to me.”

The Retrovales plan to sing a variety of music this year, including their recently release EP called “Ghost.”  The EP “documents the emotions that surround loss – sadness, hope, anger, etc. – & we’re going to play some of the tracks this year at the festival along with some of our more popular tracks from our previous album & a Britney Spears cover.”  SarahJayne looks forward to the Spencer Pride Festival each year, but has a special place in her heart for the drag show.  “That’s usually my favorite,” SarahJayne recounts.  “The fact that they are able to incorporate people of all ages into such a fun performance is wonderful.”

Inkwell Moon is a new group at the festival this year.   The group is a post-hardcore band from the Spencer/Bloomington, Indiana area that has been together for about 6 months.  They are participating this year because they want to give the crowd a great performance & show their support of Spencer Pride & the entire LGBTQ community.  For a sneak peak of what to expect, search Inkwell Moon on any streaming platform to hear their latest EP, “On The Corner Of Isolation & Smooth Ground.”  Inkwell moon will be performing at 2:00 PM.

Spencer Pride wouldn’t be the same without the ever-popular & entertaining Quarryland Men’s Chorus.  These boys know how to make a crowd smile, laugh, cry, & feel loved.  Quarryland Men’s Chorus will be taking over the courthouse lawn at 2:30 PM.  The June afternoon is expected to be hot, but these guys will really be bringing the heat when they begin to sing.

At 3:00 The Trip will be bringing their energy to the festival.  This is The Trip’s second time performing at the Spencer Pride Festival.  Their debut at the event in 2017 was well-received & many people voiced their interest in seeing them back in 2018.

Last, but never the least, the Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show will begin at 4 PM to round out the day’s talent.  These ladies will bounce, wiggle, vogue, shake, & saunter throughout the audience making sure that EVERYONE is a part of the moment.  No one needs a royal wedding when these queens take stage & captivate the crowd.    This year’s performers will include: Cassidy Fellows-Sommers, Pat Yo Weave (who is also leading Drag Queen Storytime in the Spencer Pride commUnity center at 2:30 that day), Tia Mirage Hall, Ben Dovah Plenti, & Kassia Brookes.

2018 Festival Entertainment

We are very excited to announce the entertainment lineup for this year’s festival.  The lineup of diverse entertainers includes some crowd favorites, such as Quarryland, plus some new exciting performances, such as Inkwell Moon.   All of the entertainers are family-friendly, so plan to spend the entire day enjoying what these entertainers have to offer.


Spencer Pride Participates in Regional InterPride Conference

This past weekend, volunteers from Spencer Pride attended InterPride Region 4’s conference in Detroit, Michigan.   Region 4 includes the following states:  Minnesota, North & South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, & Indiana.


9 individuals attended the conference to represent Spencer Pride. From left to right, they are: Jonathan Balash, Dylan Heaslet, Emily Carol-Black, Judi Epp, Cathy Wyatt, Joy Hellman, Jacob Balash, Kim Fidler, & Luke Brinson.

This was the first InterPride Region 4 Conference in 10 years.  As such, there was a lot of anticipation about what could be gained by attending, but there wasn’t much experience knowing how reasonable those hopes were.  All the attendees representing Spencer Pride were pleased with the conference & were happy to have participated in the event.

This year’s regional conference was hosted by Motor City Pride.  Motor City Pride holds an annual festival in Detroit each year.  In 2017, 35,000 people attended their event.  Other organizations represented at the event included: Saint Louis Pride, Hotter than July, Twin Cities Pride, Ann Arbor Pride, Indy Pride, & more.  Nearly 40 individuals were present at the conference, which took place at the Marriott Renaissance Center.  The site is also the international headquarters of General Motors.

The conference officially began Saturday morning, but the 9 representatives from Spencer Pride made the 5 and ½ hour journey on Friday evening.  While the car ride was long, it was a great kick-off for the volunteers, who spent that time catching up with one another.

The conference began with a welcome from Dave Wait, InterPride Treasurer & Motor City Pride’s event chair.  He then provided an introduction to InterPride.  Dot Belstler from Twin Cities Pride then reviewed proposed changes to the structure of InterPride & solicited feedback from those in attendance.

Belstler then presented Developing a Crisis Management Plan for your Festival, which provided a wealth of information about how to establish an effective strategy for ensuring the safety & security of festival attendees.

The rest of the afternoon was structured around a format called “speed topics.”  Individuals from several organizations presented information on a given topic & then led a discussion with the entire group to learn best practices among the many pride organizations.

Spencer Pride volunteers are show here with representatives from Saint Louis Pride, Motor City Pride, & Twin Cities Pride. Several other groups were also represented at the conference.

Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride President, presented Engaging All Ages in Pride Festivals during the speed topics.  He described how Spencer Pride isn’t just all-ages & family-friendly, but also family-focused as well.  Conference attendees were highly engaged in this topic.

“I was excited that Spencer Pride was able to have such strong representation at this year’s regional conference,” Balash said.  “The value of meeting face-to-face with representatives from Pride organizations throughout our region cannot be overstated.”

Balash noted that the best way for attendees to get value out of the event was to know how to ‘scale.’

“We have to listen to the larger organizations & scale down what they say to see how it applies to us.  The larger organizations have to listen to smaller organizations, such as ours, & scale it up to apply it to their work.  If anyone is unable to ‘scale’ like this, they will miss out on valuable information that is shared.”

Balash also serves as the regional co-director for InterPride’s Region 4 alongside Belstler.



Attendees representing Spencer Pride were asked what they expected from the conference & what they actually learned there.  Everyone shared a wealth of information & it is apparent that Spencer Pride will gain a lot from having had such a solid representation at the event.

Several of the Spencer Pride attendees are show here at the entrance to the Detroit People Mover. They used this train to get to dinner on Saturday evening.

Cathy Wyatt, long-serving director of Spencer Pride (& recently named National PFLAG Great Lakes Regional Director) wanted to learn best practices that would be helpful to Spencer Pride as the festival expands.  A discussion on safety & security made the biggest impact on her & she plans to invest more thought on that subject.

“I want to think further on how to make safety & security discreet, but effective,” Wyatt said.

Dylan Heaslet also has a renewed focus on safety after having attended the InterPride regional conference.  Dylan is a member of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors.

“I felt that it was an incredibly informative conference where I learned more than I expected,” Dylan said passionately.  “The most valuable takeaway I learned is other organizations’ processes of fundraising & generating sponsorships.”

He also saw very practical things that could be applied to our festival right away, such as the integration of a gaming area to help increase engagement of teenagers at our festival in June.

Joy Hellman serves as Youth Coordinator for the Iris Youth Group.  She was not sure what to expect from the conference, but she wanted to support the group & spend time bonding with her peers on the Board of Directors.  At the conference, she met representatives from Saint Louis’ pride organization.  They also have an LGBT center with a youth group.  Joy is excited to help build a bridge between Iris and Saint Louis’ youth group.

Joy had several other takeaways from the event, including new ways to generate income, engage with youth at the festival, & more.

Luke Brinson is shown here on the Detoit People Mover, a form of public transportation.

Luke Brinson attended the event wanting to understand more about how other, larger Pride events operated.  He felt like he learned a lot about Motor City Pride & Twin Cities Pride.

“While some of that information may not be applicable to our own event,” said Brinson, “there are ways we can interpret their strategies to improve our own festival.”

Luke is the Lead of Iris & took notes on how to increase youth engagement at the festival.

“I truly did not know what to expect with the conference,” said Jacob Balash.

Judi Epp & Jacob Balash are excited to have participated in the regional conference & learned so much.

Balash is a Spencer Pride Director & serves as the Retail Manager for Unity.

“I am so happy that I was invited.  It was a great team-building experience for our volunteers.  I look forward to continuing to develop relationships with our Spencer Pride volunteers as well as the other people we met who work so diligently on their own festivals through the Midwest.”

One of the things discussed at the festival was how to integrate more information & support for individuals in domestic violence situations.  Jacob has returned to Spencer with a mission to get those materials readily available in the restrooms at the center, where individuals can discreetly take them.   Balash was inspired by a discussion led by Ebony Janeen from Saint Louis Pride.

Judi Epp also wants to be sure that we increase our education to help combat domestic violence.

“I went to the conference hoping to share our experiences & learn from what works for other organizations.   My expectations were exceeded,“ said Epp.

Besides the efforts related to domestic violence, Epp also learned valuable new information on fundraising & youth engagement.

Many things were learned throughout the conference, which lasted well into Saturday evening.

Kim Fidler has been a member of the Spencer Pride board for 5 years.  She was very impressed with the content of the event & the value that everyone gained by participating.  She noted a huge list of things that she learned at the event, but the thing that left the strongest impression on her was the discussion on safety.

“I hate that we must consider not just the safety of festival attendees, but also threats such as people driving card into crowds as well as active shooters,” Fidler reluctantly shared.  “I am interested in working on a safety plan for the upcoming festival.  I believe that people appreciate the fact that we not only promote diversity, educate others, and are proactive with legislation, but that we also want them to have an awesome, SAFE experience at our festival.”


The regional conference wrapped up on Sunday morning with a brunch & closing discussion.  Jonathan Balash, as co-director of the region, led those remarks.  The group talked about how to keep connected with one another as well as when & where to host the next regional conference.

Jonathan Balash speaks to conference attendees about creating a ‘family focused’ event.

Spencer Pride was one of 3 groups that volunteered to host the next event, which is tentatively planned for March 2019.

For more information about InterPride, visit www.InterPride.org.  To become involved with the planning of the annual Spencer Pride Festival, e-mail info@SpencerPride.org or show up to one of the monthly volunteer meetings.  The next meeting takes place on Sunday, April 8 from 4 – 6 PM at the Spencer Pride commUnity center meeting room.