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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Prideful First for Howard County

LGBTQ Pride festival set for June 29 at Centennial Park

“This year we will finally celebrate Pride right here in Howard County,” states Howard County Executive Calvin Ball who along with the Howard County chapter of PFLAG is co-hosting the historic event.

After a year of planning by members of the local community with support from several key sexual and gender minority advocacy organizations along with an affirming and inclusive county government, the dream of holding the first ever LGBTQ Pride Celebration in Howard County is about to become a reality.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the famous Stonewall uprising, HoCo Pride, as it is known, will take place on Saturday, June 29.  The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Centennial Park, 10000 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042.

Historians have credited the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City—a spontaneous violent backlash at the Stonewall Inn against persistent police harassment of gays (the umbrella term used then for what is now the LGBTQ+ community)—as the launching pad for the gay liberation movement.  Beginning in 1970 in New York City, Pride parades and festivals had sprung up in cities and towns all over the world to commemorate Stonewall.

Indeed, planners of the inaugural event in Howard County have embraced its historical significance in the motto “Remember/Resist/Rejoice.”

Says County Executive Ball, “At the 2019 Pride Festival, we will Remember those who fought for justice. We will Resist those who would turn back the clock on equal rights, and we will Rejoice because of the LGBTQ+ love we have in our community.”

This motto will manifested at HoCo Pride with an interactive Historical Art Wall consisting of a four-panel display, according to Alisha Tronetti, the display’s coordinator.  Three of the four panels will depict past events that are significant to the LGBTQ+ community, which have occurred in the U.S and in Maryland.

“There will be space for attendees to add their own history into the wall (i.e. when they got married,
The Stonewall Inn, New York City, 1969
when they came out, when they adopted/had a kid, etc.),” says Tronetti. “This will be the Remember and Rejoice section that reflects both the good and the bad that has happened to our community. The fourth panel will be the Resist panel, where attendees will add where we think we need to go still, and what we still need to do to fight for our equality.”

In addition, a memorial recognizing those transgender individuals who had been murdered since last June is planned. It will be situated near the Historical Art Wall.

There is a sizeable LGBTQ+ population in Howard County, and over four decades ago it became one of the first jurisdictions in the state to enact protections based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.  In 2011 the county added similar protections based on gender identity.  #hococommunity

Noting the diversity and the numerous accomplishments for LGBT individuals in Howard County, leaders believed the time was right to celebrate Pride.

“Howard County [is] such a population center for the state but we don’t have an event to highlight the diversity we supposedly treasure here,” Jumel Howard, chairperson of the HoCo Pride Planning Committee and vice president of the Howard County PFLAG chapter told the Baltimore Sun  last June while the planning for HoCo Pride was in its nascent stages. “This is a great way to not just show how much we care for the LGBT community [but] to educate the community on some of the issues that affect the LGBT community.”

The festival, which is free to the public, will feature food, games, entertainment, speakers, art, and community-based vendors, at this family-friendly event. There will be Family Pride spaces and Elder Pride spaces set aside from which to enjoy the festivities. 

Family is a point of emphasis for the organizers, and accordingly, alcoholic beverages will not be available.

“I want HoCo’s first Pride to help foster a new sense of family in Howard County’s diverse LGBTQ+ community and celebrate the tremendous progress we’ve made–both inside and outside of our home,” explains Howard.

Entertainment, a hallmark of virtually all Pride celebrations, promises to be a fun-filled attraction at HoCo Pride’s debut.

“We have many entertainers being featured at Pride, and some fantastic speakers as well,” according to Chris Hefty, HoCo Pride Sponsorship and Fundraising Coordinator.  “It’s a great line-up and we even have the School of Rock booked.”

The HoCo Pride website provides information on how you may donate monetarily to this event as well as to volunteer.  Areas where people may help out include parking attendants, event tabling, event set-up crew members, and clean-up crew among other functions.

The HoCo Pride Store has handmade rainbow jewelry and a beautiful Pride flag scarf that are all original designs and creations made by Chris Hefty. “All the sales benefit HoCo Pride to ensure our historic event will be a huge success,” he says.   Visit the Store  for more information.

Sponsorship applications can be found here and vendor applications are here

For more information and to find out the latest developments, LIKE the HoCo Pride Facebook Page , follow on Twitter @hocopride or Instagram @hocopride.

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