MANCHESTER, NH – The beginning of a weekend of Pride was officially marked on Friday afternoon with the raising of a rainbow Pride flag at City Hall in Manchester.
This is the fourth year in a row that the flag has flown at City Hall in commemoration of Pride Month, but the third official flag-raising ceremony, as last year’s event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Robb Curry and Kyle Davis, co-founders of Queen City Pride and owners of Madear’s restaurant in Pembroke, originally approached Mayor Joyce Craig with the idea of raising the Pride flag in 2018.
“It’s something that we just felt like the city needed and a voice that the city should have, and Mayor Joyce Craig has been more than accommodating, supporting, and loving in making sure that Manchester moves forward with showing that Manchester is a welcoming and inclusive city of love,” Curry said to the crowd on Friday. “All of you know that we love and appreciate you and appreciate the support.”
About 60 people gathered outside City Hall, miniature Pride flags in hand, to celebrate and watch as the flag was raised. Among those in attendance were Congressman Chris Pappas, Police Chief Al Aldenberg, Fire Chief Andre Parent, Alderman Will Stewart, Alderman and State Representative Pat Long, Board of School Committee members Ben Dion and Jim O’Connell, State Senator Donna Soucy, State Representatives Mary Freitas, Joshua Query, Heidi Hamer, and Patricia Cornell, and British Deputy Consul General Tom Nickalls.
Attendees expressed that it was important to show up to show support for Pride and the LGBTQ+ community in Manchester.
“I’m here to show my support, and I really just want to let everybody know that they should be comfortable being who they are,” attendee Tammy Zamoyski said.
Craig shared a resolution officially recognizing June 2021 as Pride Month in Manchester.
“The City of Manchester is firmly committed to ensuring our community is a place where everyone feels welcomed to proudly express their authentic selves without fear of harassment, marginalization, or discrimination,” the resolution read in part.
Pappas spoke to the crowd, reflecting on how he was glad to be back at an in-person event after a difficult year, and shared some of his own perspectives as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Manchester.
“As someone who grew up in Manchester and has called this city home his entire life, it is so important for us to fly our flag to make sure that people know that this is a welcoming, loving, tolerant and inclusive city, and you all help represent the diversity that exists here in Manchester,” Pappas said. “We are a city that is diverse in terms of where people come from around the globe, diverse in terms of the religion that we might practice, diverse in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. And it’s important for us to tell all of our family members, friends and neighbors that it’s okay to be you.”
With a weekend of Pride events on the horizon, Pappas explained why these events are so important.
“Those of us who grow up LGBTQ often don’t think there’s a place for us. We often question whether or not the community will be there to support us. And we often don’t feel prideful about who we are,” Pappas said. “And this experience is so important for us because we can help share across our community that Manchester is here for you, that we love you, that this is a welcoming place, and that this is truly a place where you can just be yourself, and we are thankful that the community is embracing Pride and is here for this flag-raising today.”
The annual Queen City Pride Festival will be held Saturday at Arms Park, and several of the event organizers were present at the flag-raising to kick off the weekend.
Richella Simard, Queen City Pride Youth Program Chair and art teacher at West High School, has been working with youth for the past 13 years, including in GSA clubs, and hopes to help LGBTQ+ youth feel accepted and loved.
“[I have been] getting a little bit more vocal and being out there and really just making sure that I have the loudest voice ever for our queer youth in the state and the city, to really make a place for them to be accepted,” Simard said. “So I’m putting together a whole bunch of free activities for all of them to participate in to really feel loved, because that’s super important because that’s how people continue to progress.”
Scott Cloutier, Queen City Pride Marketing and Communications Chair, said that one way people can show support is by attending the festival on Saturday.
“The event’s going to be incredible tomorrow. It’ll be our largest festival since these started. There’s almost 90 vendors, and probably 2,000 to 3,000 people so it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Cloutier said.