On Sunday, October 8, roughly 35 students attended the Chambersburg Pride Festival as Community Engagement volunteers or part of a SAC event. The annual festival was organized by Pride Franklin County. Their goal is to “[Increase] the visibility of our LGBTQ+ neighbors and their contributions to our community, while bringing the LGBTQ+ community and straight allies together to celebrate diversity, acceptance, and belonging in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.”
Pride is an important celebration for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically in the US, the event recognizes the legacy of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. The uprising was revolutionary for gay rights in the USA. The first Pride Franklin County Pride Festival took place on August 5, 2018 and it has grown into an annual celebration that includes performances, food trucks, face painting, and vendors expressing allyship.
Upper-middler Anne Sehon took time from her busy school and cross country schedule to attend. “I had never been to a pride event before, so it was a super cool and cathartic experience for me. I had this overwhelming feeling of belonging and happiness. I’m so glad I was able to go,” she said.
Apart from the event, an offering for Mercersburg LGBTQ+ students is the LGBTQ+ affinity space. This space is run by Director of Library Services Alexandra Patterson. Affinity spaces allow students to come together as a community with people who share a common identity. This means that only people of this identity can participate in the meetings. These spaces do not have any public affiliation like clubs or student organizations (such as Rainbow Alliance or Gay/Straight Alliance).
The LGBTQ+ Affinity space did not sponsor the trip to the Pride Festival as a way of protecting the privacy of affinity space members who may not be out to the community. Patterson says, “We've very intentionally set up affinity spaces so that they do not have [a public] component.”
While most of the event attendees were there in the spirit of celebration and support, a few protesters gathered at the outskirts of the grounds. They behaved peacefully as they expressed their objections to community support for non-traditional lifestyles.
Emily Parsons, Director of Community Engagement, said that about 12 of the 35 students volunteered to work at the festival. Their jobs included greeting attendees and managing traffic. Parsons highlighted the importance of Mercersburg taking students to the Pride Festival, saying, “[I hope] that those who attend see and experience the joy and sense of belonging that is throughout the festival. I also hope that it serves as a system of support and celebration for our students and faculty members in the LGBTQIA+ community.”