Lowell Pride is back for a second year. After a successful first year, the non-profit behind the event has been preparing for the second iteration. This year’s theme is Authentically You. The event will take place on Saturday, June 4, downtown along the Riverwalk.
Lowell Pride “works to celebrate the diversity of LGBTQ+ culture and create a community that is safe and inclusive” according to its website. Throughout the year, a board plans the event and raises the funds needed to make the event successful and run smoothly. The group was established in 2020 and its first event took place last year.
Its inaugural year saw thousands partake in the day-long event. An even bigger turnout is anticipated for this year. Taking lessons learned from planning and executing last year, the board is building upon a solid foundation. Nicole Lintemuth, the board President, says small towns often get overlooked and told to go to bigger communities.
“When we can create opportunities here for that community, it helps us feel less alone,” comments Lintemuth. “ It creates a more vibrant community beyond just our LGBTQIA neighbors. Showing everyone here in Lowell that not only do we live and belong here too but also that we’re a vital part of our community locally makes such a difference.”
Shannon Hanley, who is the board’s Treasurer, says she was interested in being on the board because she wants to be part of making Lowell a dynamic and welcoming place. “[I want] to show young people that they are perfect and loved no matter who they are. We are building an environment that demonstrates to LGBTQI young people that they are important and valued,” she says. “This, of course, extends to formerly young people, those of us who have seen times change for the better and the worse. To say to all LGBTQI people that they are just as important to the fabric of our small town as anyone else.”
Paula Patterson serves as the board’s Vice President. Her hope is that people come to learn and realize that Lowell provides a safe and welcoming space within the community. “Everyone deserves a space to be celebrated and feel they are accepted for who they are,” she notes. “I also see huge value in helping connect people with information and resources to help understand others.”
Erin Foltz is also on the Lowell Pride board. She was a volunteer during the event last year and joined the leadership group after last year’s event took place. “I was so excited to have a more active role in something that means so much to so many. As a mom and a resident of Lowell, I thought an annual Pride celebration would be crucial for this community, especially to the LGBTQ youth of Lowell,” says Foltz. “Research has shown that attempted suicide rates and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ youth are significantly higher than the general population, and that having just one supportive adult in their lives who accepts them reduces that risk by almost half. Being even a small part of the solution to that…acceptance, affirmation, belonging…is such an important job, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to do that.”
Events Throughout the Day
Lowell Pride starts at 10:30am and wraps up at 10pm. Vendors and a kids’ area will be set up along through Riverwalk from 10:30am – 5pm and food will also be available throughout the day. Special events will also take place on the main stage.
In the kids’ area, visitors will find a variety of activities. It will be an inclusive family fun spot with multiple carnival-style games with prizes, a dance floor with bubble machines, crafts, coloring pages, and face painting. There will also be a community art project aimed at spreading pride throughout the year.
Becky Martin is one of over 70 vendors participating. Her business is Bear Clan Crochet which sells crocheted wearables, collectibles, and huggables. She’ll be offering smaller items during Pride that includes keychains and small plushies. She’ll have a mix of Pride themed and general items in her selection.
Apart from the exposure to her business, Martin is looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. “I really wanted to be a part of this event because I’m an ally to my LGBTQ family,” she comments. “I believe all of them have as much right to exist, be seen, and be celebrated as the straight folks do. It was absolutely incredible last year to see the amount of genuinely happy people just living it up, especially after being locked down for a year.”
Beginning at 3pm on the main stage panel discussion, sponsored by First Congregational UCC of Lowell, will take place. The panel will feature therapists, health professionals, community leaders, and more who will share their experiences and expertise. This year’s discussion will focus on LGBTQIA youth.
Wrapping up main stage events will be an evening Drag Queen Show starting at 7:30pm. According to the Lowell Pride Facebook page, the morning drag queens will be kid and family-friendly. The evening show will be geared more toward adults but will not be suggestive as it’s still a public event. Following the show a DJ will keep the atmosphere fun until the conclusion of this year’s Lowell Pride event.
Aside from wanting to show support to the LGBTQIA community, those on the board say working as a team is one of the main factors in wanting to join and for sticking around after planning for the inaugural event last year. None of the board members had planned a large-scale event, yet they were not afraid to jump in with planning and organizing all of the moving parts. It can also be challenging to have a variety of ideas but not the time, effort, funding, or space to be able to do everything. Still, the board seeks to continue to improve the event in future years, building upon past years’ successes.
This year Lintemuth has been in charge of vendors. She has recruited, organized, and promoted those who will be selling items during the event. She also is participating in the panel discussion. Patterson is in charge of main stage events. Hanley was responsible for much of the Gala planning that occurred earlier this year. During the Pride event, she’ll be helping with logistics, especially surrounding main stage happenings.
Hanley says she’s looking forward to seeing people smiling and having a great time without fear of hiding anything about who they are. When asked what she hopes people take away from the event, she responded saying, “Love. There is nothing to fear from LGBTQI people or experiences but there is a lot for many people to learn. I hope the love for all people shows through and that everyone is made a little bit better from the event.”
Numerous businesses and individuals have supported Lowell Pride. This has not gone unnoticed. “This event wouldn’t be possible without the massive amount of support we’ve received right here in Lowell,” comments Patterson. “From business owners to individuals, financial contributors, and those willing to put in the hours, we are only able to make this happen because of their dedication and willingness to help.”
Foltz is overseeing volunteers this year. She says they’re the heart and soul of the organization and events. When asked what she hopes others will take away from Pride, she responded by saying, “What I hope people learn from Lowell Pride is that this is an amazing opportunity to come together as a community and make sure that each and every person feels safe, comfortable and loved. I hope it raises awareness that LGBTQ people are here in Lowell, and in every community everywhere, and they deserve to feel that they are accepted and affirmed by the community they call home.”
As President of Lowell Pride, a local business owner, and member of the LGBTQIA community, Lintemuth hopes that those in the LGBTQIA community are not alone and those non-LGBTQIA community members will participate and “take the opportunity to learn, grow, and stand with us.” She concludes by saying, “Pride is definitely a party and celebration. We all plan to have fun, make connections, and enjoy ourselves. But it is also important to remember the meaning of Pride. It is a remembrance of the struggles the LGBTQIA community has faced and continues to face every day!”
Lowell Pride – Authentically You will take place on June 4 along the Riverwalk. See their Facebook event page for more details. For more information about the organization visit their webpage or Facebook page. If you’re interested in volunteering during the event, visit this webpage.
Photos courtesy of Deb Olivera from Fem Pro Society and used with permission.