Forty-nine degree weather, intermittent rain, and a touch of hail could not stop Bethel CT Pride from heralding in Pride season with its fifth annual parade and celebration.
Blustery weather also could not stop the estimated 400+ LGBTQIA+ community members and allies who made their way to the Bethel Municipal Center on Saturday, June 7, 2022, to celebrate.
While the turnout could not compare to the wildly successful 2019 event, which saw over one-thousand attendees grace the green, the vibe of the day was undeniable:
“The event brought validation to my existence as a living, breathing trans person who grew up in Bethel,” explained volunteer and LGBTQIA+ health and harm reduction specialist Taylor Edelmann. “I grew up quietly suffering because of a lack of LGBTQIA+ representation, so now having an entire day to celebrate these communities makes my heart incredible full.”
A day of joy
The family-friendly celebration began with a sidewalk parade led by Will Love, a Danbury-based LGBTQIA+ advocate based in Danbury who focuses on the intersectionality of race and gender.
Bethel High School senior and singer Lana Botex kicked off the live music segment, describing the event as a “safe space to share my music with people like me!” Their acoustic set included a cover of “The Village” by 2018 Bethel CT Pride performer and Grammy-nominated artist Wrabel, who was quick to reshare video of Botex performing to his 62K+ Instagram followers. Beloved local band Sans Cherubs followed with their brand of roots rock and the tremendous vocal stylings of Molten Java’s Wendy Cahill.
Over 70 entities registered to table at the 2022 LGBTQ+ pride celebration–an event record. One of the hallmarks of Bethel CT Pride is that it is a true reflection of the community, even down to the vendors. Of the booths in attendance, a whopping 26% were LGBTQIA+ artists and crafters, 24% local small businesses, 22% non-profits, and 17% LGBTQ+ non-profits.
This resonated with Sophia Gartland, “The people running the booths were so talented and kind and it was really great to see small LGBTQ+ businesses instead of large conglomerates pretending to care for a quick buck.”
Food vendors Salz Pizza, The Snack Shack, and food truck Dish It Right Here! plus two corporations, including AT&T, which scored 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for the eighteenth year in a row, rounded out the rest of the attending vendors.
As the Pride flag flew above the crowd, kids packed into the Families with Pride tent for button making and craft activities. On the far side of the lawn, educational breakout sessions hosted by Apex Community Care (Narcan training), Circle Care Center (LGBTQ+ health), and Triangle Community Center (support groups) peppered the day.
Accessibility and inclusivity have long been central to the Bethel CT Pride ethos. This includes ensuring parking and restrooms are accessible to all, that the parade route and vendor village are wheelchair friendly, and that quiet space locations are available, if needed. Leading this effort is Honorah O’Neill, owner of Rainy Day Paperback Exchange and Bethel CT Pride co-lead. This year, O’Neill implemented an opt-in badging system modeled from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. The system provides attendees a way to non-verbally signal their interaction comfort level and was recently borrowed by New Milford Pride to use at their own Pride celebration.
Bethel CT Pride has grown to serve a massive community. While the group primarily functioned virtually during the height of pandemic, Bethel CT Pride is excited to once again be attending LGBTQ+ events such as Fairfield County Pride in the Park, and holding in-person events like Plant Swap. New this year is the trans-inclusive Women’s Meet Up, which met for the first time in early June, and will hold its next event on Saturday, July 16. Bethel CT Pride will also be co-hosting the revival of Molten Java’s Open Mic Night, coming back to Thursday evenings from 7-9PM beginning on July 21.
About Bethel CT Pride
Bethel CT Pride was established by a middle-school student in 2017 to provide a celebration for those who may not have access to LGBTQ+ events in their immediate communities, including students and families seeking an all-ages event. Since that time, the group has grown beyond creating the first event celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in upper Fairfield County.
In 2018, Bethel CT Pride gained Triangle Community Center (TCC) as its fiscal sponsor. TCC, a 501c3 organization based in Norwalk, Conn., oversees financial management and administrative support for all contributions to Bethel CT Pride. In 2019, Bethel CT Pride accepted the invitation to become a member of the Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber (CTGLC).
In addition to its coalition of volunteers, the event continues to gain sponsorship support from area businesses and organizations, including Circle Care Center, Leonard-Litz Foundation, Apex Community Care, Molten Java, Rainy Day Paperback Exchange, Howl Productions, Leonardo DRS, Walker Realty, CT Business Link, Daily Fare, and The Toy Room.
Bethel CT Pride has also inspired numerous towns throughout the state of Connecticut to create their own hometown Pride groups and celebrations.
If you would like to learn more about Bethel CT Pride, our events, and Discord, or to volunteer or become a sponsor, visit https://linktr.ee/bethelctpride or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Telegram @bethelctpride.