Pride Day Celebration

Springfield, Vermont couple Cori Bushnaw, 45, left, and Michelle Porter, 39, and their dogs were among hundreds of visitors at the Rural PRIDE 2018 celebration on Saturday, June 16, in Claremont.

TWIN STATE VALLEY — Two years after hosting the first PRIDE Day in the Upper Valley, Claremont advocacy group Rural Outright will team with a Windsor organizer to create the first cross-state, all-weekend PRIDE celebration in 2020, with events running from Friday night through Sunday in Claremont, New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont.

“We are so excited for Rural PRIDE 2020,” Rural Outright program Chair Matt Mooshian stated in a press release. “Rural PRIDE started as a grassroots effort to bring visibility and empowerment to the LGBTQ+ community and it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to expand this event going into our third year and bring two states together for a weekend of PRIDE.”

Rural Outright is an education and advocacy group created by the TLC Family Resource Center in Claremont in support of LGBTQIA — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual — persons, their families and their allies.

The first Rural PRIDE event took place on June 16, 2018 at the Visitors Center Green in Claremont and was the first event of its kind in western New Hampshire at the time. Organizers interviewed during the inaugural event said they hoped to inspire other Pride events in the Upper Valley.

The 2018 event drew hundreds of people from both sides of the Connecticut River. One of those individuals was Amanda Smith, a resident of Windsor, Vermont.

The event inspired Smith to hold a PRIDE day in Windsor this past summer, which took place on Sunday, June 30. Smith organized the event with just two weeks of planning. Only a week after announcing it on her facebook page “LGBTQ+ & Allies of Windsor VT,” more than 200 people from the region had confirmed or expressed interest in attending.

Rural Outright, TLC and Smith began discussing in September about holding an expanded, shared event between the two communities, according to Mooshian.

“We had an idea of what we wanted to do in Claremont, and she had an idea for Windsor,” Mooshian said. “And magically, we discovered that we both wanted the same thing.”

The event in planning

Though some details are still in the works, Rural PRIDE 2020 will kick off Friday night on June 19, in Windsor with celebratory festivities and family-friendly entertainment. Performers have not been announced but expect to include comedians, improv performers and musicians.

On Saturday morning, June 20, in Claremont, there will be a “PRIDE Stride and Ride,” a parade similar in length and design to a 5K event. After that, Rural Outright will host its third annual Rural PRIDE event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Barnes Park in Claremont.

Mooshian said that they are still accepting vendors and seeking quotes for the cost of a large tent for cooling and shade.

Saturday night there will be an alcohol-free after-party in Windsor.

The weekend will conclude on Sunday, June 21, with a picnic and pool party at The Climb Fitness Center in Brownsville, Vermont. This event will be family-oriented event, according to Mooshian.

“It’s cool seeing how excited people are about Rural PRIDE 2020 and how much has grown from an event we started two years ago,” Mooshian said.

Since hosting Rural PRIDE 2018, Mooshian said he has received calls from other organizations in other towns, including Lebanon and White River Junction, Vermont about partnering for events or expressing interest in holding their own.

“We want to expand our event and make Rural PRIDE even more inclusive and diverse,” Mooshian said. “The purpose is the same as it has always been, to be an event for celebration, community and reflection.”

Smith told the Eagle Times yesterday that she is excited for the opportunity to attract more people from across the two states to the area.

Maggie Monroe-Cassel, executive director of TLC, said that Rural Outright originated with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth, who face considerable risks from bullying and other health impacts, but the program’s message of diversity is all-inclusive.

“As an agency we welcome all families, and families come in all shapes and sizes,” Monroe-Cassell said.

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