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Weekend events kick off LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Amherst

Weekend events kick off LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Amherst

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

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

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Around Amherst: Cultural Council grants boost events, groups

Around Amherst: Cultural Council grants boost events, groups

AMHERST — Musical and theatrical events, visual artists and programs focused on the natural environment are among the 65 recipients of $61,475 from the Amherst Cultural Council.

Matt Holloway and Julianne Applegate, who lead the council, recently announced that Amherst Ballet, Amherst Cinema, The Hitchcock Center for the Environment and Gallery A3 will be receiving grants. In addition, the Amherst Business Improvement District received money to cover the costs of signs for The Drake venue created by artist Kamil Peters.

Other projects funded include Maitreyee Chakraborty’s “East Meets West — Tagore and Dickinson,” Pamela Tillis’ “In the Spirit and the Flesh: The Cultural Legacy of Dr. Frederick C. Tillis,” and Jennifer Bajorek’s “Look and Feel: Senegalese Graffiti Artist Residency and Exhibition.”

Money will also go to two Amherst Juneteenth celebrations, the Odenong Powwow on Amherst Town Common, a virtual dialogue “Shedding Light on the Namesake Amherst,” and the Hilltown Youth Performing Arts Program Summer Workshop.

State Rep. Mindy Domb said in a statement that she appreciates the programs that will be funded. “I am particularly excited about the ways the local cultural council has dedicated funding to ensure accessibility to programs by specifically funding measures to increase accessibility to arts and culture programs for people living with disabilities,” Domb said.

That accessibility includes providing money for Sign Interpreting, or ASL, Musical Interpreting and CART, or real time closed-captioning.

Input sought on budget

Amherst town officials are seeking input and participation from residents as the budget season commences.

At Monday’s joint Town Council and Finance Committee meeting, starting at 5 p.m., a hearing will be held on the nearly $90 million spending plan presented earlier this month by Town Manager Paul Bockelman, with the public invited to offer comments during the live Zoom session.

The following day, May 17, the town will hold what is being dubbed an all-day “ask me anything” event in which Finance Director Sean Mangano will field questions through social media, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, as well as the Engage Amherst website.

The idea, said Brianna Sunryd, the town’s communications manager, is for Mangano to respond to inquiries at some point during the course of the day, whether posed at 3 a.m. or 10 p.m.

Then, on May 20 at 10:30 a.m., Bockelman will hold a virtual Cuppa Joe with Mangano where people can ask live questions. That event will also be recorded. The Town Council will vote on the town, school and library spending in mid-June.

Passing of Peggy Roberts

A longtime Amherst resident who served for 28 years on the Amherst Redevelopment Authority and was instrumental in the planning that led to the Boltwood Walk projects that include the Bangs Community Center and the Boltwood parking garage, recently died.

Margaret “Peggy” Roberts died at home at the age of 94 on April 24. Roberts, who also participated in projects to envision Sweetser Park and Kendrick Park, was a member of Town Meeting for over 50 years and was also active in the Amherst League of Women Voters.

She served on the inaugural redevelopment panel in 1974, departing that in 1996, when she also retired as a biology lab instructor at Mount Holyoke College. Roberts had been on the Center School Complex Committee that preceded the creation of the redevelopment authority.

Local student getsThailand scholarship

Lyudmila Pitts, an Amherst Regional High School junior, has received a scholarship to continue her high school education at the UWC Thailand.

The daughter of Paulina Alenkina and James Pitts, Pitts was among 59 students in the United States selected for the merit-based Davis Scholarships.

UWC is an international high school for 16- to 19-year-olds with 18 campuses worldwide. Its mission is to unite cultures through education, creating a peaceful, sustainable world. It also offers an International Baccalaureate.

Open house

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting an open house for the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association’s 20th anniversary and new location celebration to be held May 18 at 11 Amity St.

The open house begins at 3 p.m. with tours of the new location and an opportunity to meet the CAIA team. A ribbon-cutting is at 4 p.m., with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres to be served. To RSVP, send email to

Hadley fundraiser

“Grown in Hadley” T-shirts, along with caps, tote bags, pins and History of Hopkins books are being sold this spring to benefit the Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation.

The items will be available during the town election at Hadley Senior Center on Tuesday, the gazebo in front of Hopkins Academy during the Memorial Day parade, and at the June 4 Asparagus Festival.