Crowds show up for Westminster's inaugural Pride Festival

When Westminster residents Sean Ruark and Sadie Drawbaugh got ready for the day Saturday, they spread glitter across their faces and sprinkled rainbow stickers generously across their outfits.

It was a surreal feeling to get ready for a pride festival and realize it was happening in their own home town.

“I was one of the only openly gay people at Winters Mill High School,” Ruark said. “It’s a really good feeling … to come here and see the progression in four years.”

Members of the festival committee were keeping general track of the turnout. they printed 2,000 stickers for the festival and, by 1:30 p.m., only about 400 were left, said Sherri Hosfeld-Joseph, a member of the Westminster Pride Committee and owner of Birdie’s Cafe.

“It’s more than we expected. I’m so happy,” said Jason Garber, another member of the committee. He said he felt near tears but in a good way. Hosfeld-Joseph agreed.

Garber described an event earlier in the morning when he had spoken to the mother of a transgender child who was overcome with emotion after visiting the festival.

He thought, “This is all for you,” he said.

The festival had an open structure with food and music at either end of the festival to encourage guests to walk up and down the street.

The goal was to “let everyone be as they want to be for five hours,” Garber said.

Local nonprofit organizations joined political candidates and small-business owners in booths up and down the route. Rainbow decorations on booths and people were visible in all directions.

Law enforcement had a visible presence at the festival.

No counter-protest activity was visible around the festival as of 2:30 p.m.

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.

Later in the evening, the Westminster chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays hosted a sold-out drag extravaganza called “Shantay you Stay.”

Performer Kit Valentine, of Taylorsville, walked around the festival in the afternoon decked out in a tall blue hairstyle and bejeweled bodice, posing for plenty of pictures along the way.

PFLAG also had a booth at the festival. Liesl Flanagan, a member of Westminster’s PFLAG, said the group had good engagement with the crowd. It meets monthly at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Westminster.

“Everyone has been so excited,” she said of the crowd.

One of the festival volunteers, Diane Creedon, who was handing out stickers all afternoon, said the event was “absolutely” going well for its first year. She has also volunteered at LGBT+ events in Frederick and Hagerstown.

“It’s going to become even more fabulous,” she said.

She commented that there were people of all ages groups present.

Ivy Allgeier said one of her favorite part of the festival had been reading all the different T-shirts people wore during the day. If the festival turns up again next year, she hopes that there will be more food or possibly a beer garden.

“Ten years ago, this never would have happened,” she said.

“It’s a pretty big step,” agreed her daughter Sadie Allgeier.

Ivy Allgeier said she had noticed that there were many booths advertising mental health counseling services.

“I can’t wait to see what happens next year,” she said. “And I’m excited for the drag show later.”

Information about the Pride Festival is available at www.westminsterpride.org, by emailing westminsterpridefest@gmail.com or through Facebook. A fund to donate to the organization is live through the Carroll Community Foundation.

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