With pride flags and a party mood, members of the local LGBT community were once again able to enjoy a pride celebration in Chester County over the weekend after eleven years, writes Michaelle Bond for Philly.com.
Non-profit organization LGBTea Dances (now LGBT Equality Alliance) organized the Chester County Pride Weekend in Phoenixville on Saturday and Sunday, giving the county’s LGBT population a much more local experience than the bigger events held in urban centers.
“People in the suburbs have different experiences and needs that sometimes aren’t entirely met by Philadelphia organizations,” said Malcom Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum.
It was also much easier to find corporate sponsors today than it was eleven years ago, as companies including The Dow Chemical Co., Pfizer Inc., Creative Capital Wealth Management Group and Virtual Farm Creative all pitched in with either money or services.
The last pride festival in Chester County in 2005, ended in tragedy with the death of one of its organizers, Jeffrey Ruud. The county’s only gay bar, Frank Jeffrey’s in downtown Phoenixville that was run by Ruud and his partner Frank Viera, closed soon after.
It was this lack of LGBT resources in the county that spurred Rachel Stevenson, a motivational speaker and author, to start the nonprofit LGBTea Dances. (VISTA Today spoke to Rachel Stevenson last month about here life and work.)
The resurrection of the festival honors the memories and lives of Ruud and Viera, who died of cancer at 68 in December, said Stevenson, adding that it brings the history of what was before, together with what is new.
“They don’t have to move to New York or move to the city for them to be themselves,” said Stevenson.