AMHERST — Amherst officials are raising the gay pride flag in front of Town Hall Friday afternoon, beginning a weekend of community activities, in the Mill District in North Amherst, to celebrate gay pride.
The flag-raising, at 5:30 p.m., includes the reading of a proclamation, adopted by the Town Council, marking June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, for the fourth year in a row, and expressing the town’s values in support of diversity, inclusion and equal rights.
While Amherst has long supported LGBTQ+ pride, this year will be the first time when numerous events are happening in town for the occasion.
Amherst Pride at the Mill District, as the two-day event is being dubbed, is an outgrowth of work done by a committee exploring how Amherst could best get people to have fun around the observance.
Hannah Rechtschaffen, director of Placemaking for W.D. Cowls Inc. and the Mill District Local Art Gallery, said that with parades and other events throughout the region, supporting what she calls the amazing queer artists and local performers in the Pioneer Valley seemed sensible.
“Our intention was always to build an inaugural event that could be scaled in the future,” Rechtschaffen said.
The pride events start at 3 p.m. Saturday, when preparations begin for the children’s pride parade that steps off at 5 p.m. Hosted by the Mill District General Store, the time leading up to the parade will include face painting and flag making.
At 4 p.m. the “Queer Pop-Up Market,” put together by Rechtschaffen, begins, with items for sale including candles, jewelry, skin care products, pottery and other goods produced in the region. Among the vendors on hand will be High Five Books in Florence, Astral Cherry Art in Easthampton and Our Modern Love: Candles & Crafts of Springfield.
Following the parade, there will be the Outtire Fashion Show, from 6 to 6:45 p.m. That is developed by Andrea Marion, owner of the Closet Clothing store, where there will be a walking runway for the Amherst Pride clothing line.
The day concludes with the “Pride After Dark Drag Ball” from 7 to 10 p.m., a dance party that will have DJ Kstyles spinning and drag performances by Damela Cuca Deville, Veronica Midnight Lockhart and Mz. October May Lay.
“This event is truly one of mutual LGBTQ+ community and allies coming together and organizing,” Rechtschaffen said.
“As our connectivity grows, we look forward to featuring even more LGBTQ+ businesses, performers and people at the forefront of this growing celebration.”
On Sunday, indoor and outdoor yoga and Pilates will be led by Balanced Birch Studio and F45 Fitness, starting at 9, 10 and 11. To participate, people should RSVP at https://linktr.ee/themilldistrictna.
Jake’s at the Mill District will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. serving its Pride Pancakes for $15 per person. The meal will include pancakes, bacon and fruit, with mimosas available at additional cost.
Pride Storytime & Hoop Joy then takes place from 9 a.m. to noon, a partnership between Jones Library and the business Hoop Joy, with both stories and hula hooping.
Meanwhile, a proclamation, sponsored by District 2 Councilor Pat De Angelis and District 5 Councilor Ana Devlin Gauthier, with former councilor Evan Ross as the community sponsor, references the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York’s Greenwich Village, which served as the catalyst for the gay rights movement.
“We remain vigilant and active against continued oppression and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, especially our trans community, and stand against any political efforts to overturn these hard-fought rights,” it reads.
The proclamation also cites the town’s support for diversity and inclusion, commitment to equal rights, justice and opportunity, and notes that “we recognize that queer and trans people of color have been and remain at the forefront of that struggle for those rights.”
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.