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Say it with Pride: Festival celebrates diversity with flair

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Kieran Lewis says she tries to attend the Salisbury Pride Festival every year.

“I like that it’s really open,” she said Saturday during the ninth annual festival downtown, which attracted, for sure, several thousand people and 105 vendors. “I like the people. It’s a little on the hectic side, but it’s really cool. I love coming to these events.”

The Salisbury Pride event clearly is the downtown’s second biggest annual festival, supplanted only in recent years by the Cheerwine Festival in May. The festival filled all of the 100 block of East Fisher Street and the two large parking lots in the 100 block of South Lee Street.

In a rainbow of colors and benefiting from near-perfect weather, people attending the festival celebrated diversity and the LGBTQ community.

The festival featured all manner of flair and flamboyance in dress, song, dance and performance, as it tried to meet its goal of offering a safe space for self expression.

“This is a big statement, it’s important we have it,” said Taylor Sepulveda, who with his friends Alex Bessette and Elliot Small were wearing what they called puppy play hoods. “… I love the diversity, the different kinds of vendors, ”

Sepulveda also praised the staff throughout the venue who offered a feeling of security. As it has in many years past, the Salisbury Pride event attracted some protesters, who talked over a portable loudspeaker and held signs such as “Jesus came to deliver you from sin” and “Where will you spend eternity?”

“The best part is, we all just ignore it,” Sepulveda said, and organizers generally encouraged vendors and attendees not to engage the demonstrators, who also were handing out pamphlets from Harmony Believers Fellowship.

In some cases, performers and others tried to drown out the protests. Perry Ingram, who traveled from Charlotte, made sure they caught a glimpse of his T-shirt, which said “G.A.Y. (God Accepts You).”

Otherwise, he also tried to ignore the demonstrators and said, “They have a right of free speech as well. I wish my peers would not engage them.”

Ingram attends the Pride event in Charlotte and wishes more smaller towns would organize their own Pride functions as Salisbury has done.

“I think it’s wonderful Salisbury has one,” he said.

Becky Stamler, a member of the Concord/Kannapolis PFLAG, said the Salisbury Pride event was “a happy, joyous event” that offers an opportunity for people to be authentic and real.

Sometimes that’s not possible for members of the LGBTQ community even in their own homes, she said.

The Concord/Kannapolis PFLAG is active in the community, offering scholarships; providing a support group for parents of transgender and gender non-conforming kids, teens and adults; conducting toy drives; holding picnics for Time Out youth; and more.

The group has participated in the Concord Christmas Parade the past three years.

And speaking of parades, Salisbury Pride announced Saturday that it had awarded the Ralph Ketner Ally Award to the “Tis the Season Spectacular” holiday parade, which this past year replaced the Holiday Caravan through Spencer and Salisbury.

The award went to the whole committee, which was co-chaired by Shari Graham and Hen Henderlite.

Other committee members were Scott and Kathy Adams, Robin Allen, Lisa Baker-Clark, Angel Barber, John Buddemeyer, Mike Clawson, Cathy Griffin, Debbie Hubbard, Michael Jordan, Mo Koontz, Veleria Levy, Meredyth McDaniel, Beth Meadows, Tweena Moore, Donna Odrosky, Tammy Pinkston, Devan Purvis, Heather Purvis, Lynne Purvis, P.J. Ricks and Brent Safrit.

“When the holiday parade was scuttled last summer,” said Meadows, the Salisbury Pride board president, “there was a group of like-minded individuals who decided to not accept the status quo.”

Under Graham and Henderlite’s leadership, Meadows said, the committee “put on a show like has not been seen for many years.”

“They were a very diverse group that showed what we as a community are,” Meadows said. “And the parade ended up reflecting that diversity.”

Past recipients of the Ralph Ketner Ally Award are Maggie Blackwell, Margaret Almeida, William C. Stanback and Ketner himself.

Maddy McDaniel was named Volunteer of the Year by Salisbury Pride.

“Maddy McDaniel has been a volunteer at Pride from the very first one,” Meadows said. “She gets here early in the morning every year and stays until the last chair is loaded.

“Over the years, she has grown from a teenager to a successful young woman. We are proud she is part of the Salisbury Pride family now as a committee member.”

Patti O’Furniture, one of the hostesses and stage performers, told a street audience she loved Salisbury and its family-friendly vibe as she prepared to do what she call a “pop-up drag show.”

She them led the enthusiastic crowd in a song and the antics to go with it.

Salisbury Pride celebrates all people — “every shape, size and gender expression.” Patti said.

“I love that in Salisbury we celebrate that.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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