BELFAST, Maine — Brightly colored rainbow flags fluttering over more than 50 local businesses are one clear sign that Belfast has pride.
Another is that the city’s first-ever pride festival, called Belfast Has Pride, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 11. MaKayla Reed and Rachel Epperly said this week that they decided to organize the event after realizing that in Maine, there are no pride festivals in smaller cities. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, a tipping point for the gay civil rights movement in the United States.
Reed and Epperly, who are married, believe that the Belfast event will be the first-ever pride festival in midcoast Maine.
“It seemed there were no small-town pride events, and if you want pride, you have to go to Portland or Bangor, one of the larger communities,” Reed said. “We wanted to create one big event that would pull the whole community together. I think we live in a really wonderful town that is the center of the midcoast, and we’re trying to redefine what pride is as a model for other small towns.”
Reed and Epperly said that in Belfast, the event will feature a parade that begins at 10 a.m. at Waterfall Arts on High Street and travels almost a mile to the festival site at Steamboat Landing Park on the waterfront. Anyone is welcome to participate in the parade, they said, adding that those interested are encouraged to bring flags, signs, balloons, banners, leashed pets and musical instruments.
At the festival, there will be live music, drag performances, hula hoop instruction and ukulele demonstrations, as well as a bounce castle, dunk tank and face painting. The event has two pride marshals — longtime educator Lila Nation and Belfast poet laureate Toussaint St. Negritude.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is honoring our pride marshals,” Epperly said. “I’m excited about honoring the past and paying tribute to the people who have gotten us to this place where we are in Belfast. And I’m excited about creating a space where we can look toward the future of what the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning] community can be in Belfast. We have a really great population of elders who really have paved the way for where we are now.”
Epperly and Reed, who are both 21, said that while great strides have been made in recent years, there is still discrimination in the community. There also can be a sense of isolation, and they are hoping that the event may help change that feeling.
“Our hope is to really bring together people in the community,” Epperly said. “I’m really hoping that there will be a good feeling of community and bonding and friendship.”
For more information about the event, please visit www.facebook.com/belfasthaspride.