BELLOWS FALLS — Throughout four weeks in June, the village of Bellows Falls celebrated the queer community and kept the legacy of the Andrews Inn alive.
So what did Bellows Falls Pride actually do to honor Pride month? By revering our history and staying true to who we are, engaging locally with merchants, inviting aligned nonprofits to collaborate, and honoring the seminal decade of activism by the founders of the Andrews Inn, our plans unfolded organically and powerfully on a local level.
We began by booking four classic LGBTQ-themed films at the beautiful Bellows Falls Opera House. We paid homage to the Andrews Inn with a founder's photo exhibit. We supported a Pride Whistlestop Tour through all 10 Amtrak Vermonter stations, with a crowd of more than 30 people in Bellows Falls - and were joined by Vermont's U.S. representative, Becca Balint!
We purchased a 30-foot rainbow banner that appeared first at the train station and now hangs proudly above the downtown Square. We held a T-Dance at the incredible Field Center.
Through collaboration with the town administration, Selectboard, public works department, and the local and state historic preservation community, we gained permission to relocate the Andrews Inn historic marker so it can be seen easily from the street.
Finally, we collaborated with the Bellows Falls Moose Lodge to host a community dance, Love Will Keep Us Together, with music by DJ extraordinaire Uncle Thiccc (a.k.a. "Wade the Great" Garrett).
Bellows Falls Pride has been the best volunteer-led effort I've experienced throughout my 40-plus years of community activism. It was heartwarming to see longtime friends from Keene make their way across the river to join in our celebrations and to welcome so many new faces.
We owe a debt of gratitude to so many sponsors and supporters. Our fantastic downtown merchants fully embraced Pride month, decorated their storefronts and created beautiful displays. It was inspiring to be met with strong enthusiasm and support by others whose only investment was in doing the right thing.
Bellows Falls Pride was birthed without fanfare and proves that you don't need a lot of money or glitz to create an opportunity for equality activism. Anyone can have an impact simply by showing up - more important than ever as long-held rights for the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, and women, are now being eroded at lightning speed.
Which raises the question: How will you be able to say that you made a difference?
In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling codifying discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, the effectiveness of collective action at a grassroots level is more important than ever. Watch Facebook and visit our website for up to date information, bellowsfallspride.com
This Voices Letters from readers was submitted to The Commons.