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.
COMMUNITY CENTER ACTIVITY PARTICIPATION INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER 2017
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.
FESTIVAL MARKETPLACE WAS EXPANSIVE
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.
ENTERTAINMENT & OTHER ALL-AGES ACTIVITIES CONTINUE POPULARITY
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.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED
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.
REFLECTING ON THE FESTIVAL
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.