After a year of COVID-19 isolation, Westminster did not waste any time returning to its tradition of bringing the community together with festivals, strolls, and community celebrations.
On July 10, thousands of folks crowded on to the historic East Main Street for Westminster’s annual Westminster Pride Festival. According to an article by Clara Longo de Freitas on July 9 in the Carroll County Times, and a conversation with Jason Garber, one of the organizers of the festival, one of the goals was to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and provide support.
The event featured 60 vendors, food trucks, and live music. It started at noon and continued until 6 p.m., on East Main Street, which was closed from Church to Court streets.
It was on June 15 that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that “Maryland will end a state of emergency for COVID-19 on July 1,” according to an article June 15 in the Frederick News-Post. “The governor made the announcement at a news conference one year, three months and 10 days after Maryland confirmed its first cases of the coronavirus.”
It has been a long year. At the Westminster Mayor and Common Council meeting on July 12, Westminster Mayor Dr. Mona Becker announced that Westminster will end the public health emergency resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In her presentation Becker reported that it was “on March 14, 2020, Mayor Joe Dominick issued a proclamation declaring a public health emergency in the City prompted by the ongoing threat of widespread infection by the virus known as COVID-19.”
It was almost two months ago on May 14 that Hogan relaxed many of the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“Our long, hard-fought battle over the worst of the global pandemic in nearly a century is finally nearing an end,” Hogan said.
It was around that time that Westminster, under the leadership of the Westminster Parks and Recreation Department and its director, Abby Gruber, began to bring back several of the community’s annual events after a year in which almost all public events were canceled in an effort to scale back and reduce the deadly effects of the COVID-19 virus. Recent events have included the Wine Stroll, the Flower and Jazz Festival, and the Beer and BBQ Stroll. The Beer and BBQ Stroll in June was the first event in a year to be held on Main Street in Westminster.
Garber, according to the July 9 Times article, reconvened planning for last weekend’s event “about two months ago, once it felt clear that the state was headed toward having a majority of the population vaccinated. In Maryland, more than 75% of residents over 18 have received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19. In Carroll County, the vaccination rate for at least one dose is of 58.4%.”
The origins of the pride festival came together in 2018, as a result of the efforts of folks such as Sherri Hosfeld-Joseph, a member of the Westminster Pride Committee and owner of Birdie’s Cafe. The event grew in 2019. According to the July 9 Times article, about 5,000 people went to the festival.
An article July 7, 2018 bin the Carroll County Times reported that Westminster Common Council member Tony Chiavacci, who was strolling the festival with his family, said the event was ‘calm, it’s cool’ and represented a great moment of diversity. ‘It moves the needle for the city,’ he said.” Many folks agree.
“Ten years ago, this never would have happened,” Ivy Allgeier said in the 2018 story.
“It’s a pretty big step,” agreed her daughter, Sadie Allgeier.
Indeed, efforts to bring forward a pride event in August 2001 failed for lack of support. In 2001, I wrote that community diversity is healthy because it tests viewpoints and brings more information to the leadership table. The City of Westminster is committed to promoting diversity, racial equality, and justice as a fundamental aspect of a healthy community.
I often use the terms “diversity” interchangeably with the term “building inclusive communities.” This is not to split hairs, but the difference between diversity and building inclusive communities is that diversity is counting heads, while building an inclusive community is making heads count.
In Westminster, we come together in our day-to-day lives to celebrate our differences and our diversity, which unites us as a strong community. Diversity is a reality that people are going to have to confront sooner or later. In Westminster, it is important that we seize the opportunities that diversity provides our community. We are always looking for better ways to serve our diversity community.
To paraphrase Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in 2002, our community is changing. Like it or not. We are living through rapidly changing times in which only 8 percent of Americans grow up in a “Leave It to Beaver”-style family.
In the end, my support of folks different than me is just simply called patriotism, common sense, and a reluctance to buy into hysteria and sensationalism.