SCRANTON — It was all about “Pride on the Mountain,” as hundreds of people headed to the ninth-annual PrideFest at Montage Mountain Aug. 5.
In a larger venue, PrideFest featured access to the water park, the Slocum Hollow bar, food and beverages from both Montage Mountain and other vendors and a variety of information tables on topics from legal issues to health services. Highlights included speeches delivered by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Scranton, and Forty Fort councilman, Dominic Butchko.
“This is a great thing,” said attendee Laure Close as she looked down at the packed dance area. “For the kids, the younger ones who can’t go anywhere else, this event is great because their choices are limited.”
According to Carl Halkyer, co-chair of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance’s board of directors, it was the options for expanded activity Montage had to offer that made it the right choice for the event.
“The main reason was to make PrideFest more interactive,” he said. “Pride actually started out as a small picnic in Kirby Park and remained there for several years. Then we moved it to Pittston last year, as that’s where our new center is located. But relocating again to Montage added an extra layer of something for the adults with the bar and the water park for the whole family.
Casey, who recently co-sponsored the Equality Act, has been proactive in introducing legislation to the Senate to offer protection for LGBTQ people. Casey was the guest of honor and offered encouragement to the crowd who cheered during his speech.
“Events like this, opportunities like this were not always available, so we’re grateful,” Casey said. “We’re grateful to those who stand up everyday for the LGBT community and their families. This is a Commonwealth, our state, and one of the obligations I have is to make sure that this is a Commonwealth in life as well as in name. And you can’t really be a Commonwealth unless you recognize that everyone is supposed to count.”
Casey said there’s still “a long way to go to make sure laws are put into place to protect people in their workplace, in housing and all settings in American life.”
Butchko, a 19-year-old political newcomer, spoke too, reflecting on walking away from a previous PrideFest out of fear, only to return this year proudly representing the LGBQ community.
“It shocked me at how truly vibrant and how expansive the local LGBT community really is in NEPA,” Butchko said. “PrideFest truly embodied this spirit and is a great opportunity to expand your horizon and really see this community.”
Butchko interacted with those attending the event because his story seemed to resonate with many, regardless of age.
“The NEPA Rainbow Alliance is about more than the annual Pride event,” Halkyer said. “Pride is one of our fundraisers. It’s a combination of a fundraiser and our largest social event for the community. Pride helps support the Rainbow Alliance with all of their programming and maintaining the center in Pittston.”
“We’ve gotten very positive feedback from people who have attended Pride events across the state,” Halkyer said. “We have the ability to take Pride to a whole new level. And, there are a lot of things that will be happening for the community with our new center.”
Shannon Keith is a Weekender correspondent. Reach Weekender at [email protected]