Over 100 people participated and showed their support during Cordova’s first ever Pride parade on Saturday, June 25. Pride is celebrated nationwide, during the month of June, and the rainbow flag is an icon in Pride celebrations, the colors representing the diversity of the LGBTQ community.
The mood was festive as paradegoers marched up and down Main Street, happily cheering and waving rainbow flags, and a celebratory gathering took place on the Grassy Field of Hollis Henrichs Park afterward. There were kids’ activities, a raffle, a potluck and vendor tables. Rainbow flags were displayed throughout, and a “Love Wins” sign was visible from the road.
At one point a child biking by asked “is this a birthday party?” And indeed, it did seem like the first birthday of Pride celebrations in Cordova.
Sarah Phillips organized the Cordova’s Pride parade.
“The LGBTQ+ community has always been present in Cordova,” she said. “June 25, 2022, was just one opportunity for these individuals and their allies to feel seen and safe in our little corner of the world.”
Many people in vehicles, not directly participating in the parade, offered honks and cheers of support as they passed by to show support.
“When it came to the Pride Parade, I really only hoped that we could create an inviting event that represented love in all the ways it can be expressed and make space for community members to ask questions, share experiences and nurture a sense of belonging,” Phillips added.
Pride parades began over 50 years ago, during a pivotal time for gay activism. It began after the Stonewall Riots in New York City, yet a half a century later, there is still very much a need for support and advocating for LGBTQ people to feel safe and supported in their communities, especially for those who have not come out yet.
Erin Brennan, an occupational therapist at Cordova Community Medical Center, started a LGBTQ+ support group with the intention “to create a safe space for teens, whether they’re accepted or not, they have a safe space to turn to in Cordova,” Brennan said.
In addition to providing support to teens, Brennan also hopes it can be of service to families.
“I also want to have moms and dads come … my mom could have used something like that, she needed to have someone to talk to — like help me figure this out so that I have a better relationship with my kid,” she said.
There’s a lot of challenges people face, within families, religions or community, where individuals may not feel safe to come out, or they may feel scared to come out and oftentimes, the reaction of family or friends can be negative. Pride celebrations make those individuals aware of the LGBTQ community that exists and can help connect people within the community.
“The more we grow it, we’re hoping we can have a safe space for everybody. Parents and having somewhere for kids to go and know they are safe and loved,” Brennan said.
Many businesses showed support by hosting events, displaying decorations or donating items to the Pride raffle.
The Whale’s Tale cafe celebrated Pride all week with rainbows and streamers hung outside the building as well as inside. Owner Wendy Ranney and her employees wore colorful unicorn horns and the cafe displayed bowls of rainbow-colored candies and a visible sign of support.
“I feel like we just need to show our support for those who may not feel like they can have a voice,” Ranney said. “If we showed support maybe that will help someone else feel like they could also show support.”
Jessica Morningstar, of Copper River Canvas, was pleased other businesses and individuals had similar ideas about celebrating Pride.
“It was kind of exciting that many people wanted to join in,” she said.
Morningstar and Charity Wheeler, the manager at the Reluctant Fisherman restaurant, collaborated on painting events, including a painting party held on the restaurant deck. According to Morningstar, a few individuals had been planning to show their support of Pride, when they learned of others wanting to do the same.
The Cordova Rocks group held an all-ages event to paint colorful and inspiring messages on rocks, which get distributed around town. She and Wheeler organized the painting events together.
“It was a city-wide thing, everybody just wanted to be involved,” Morningstar said.
The inspiring and positive messages written on the rocks are meant to serve as a reminder that there are people and resources in this town willing and able to support anyone having a challenging time.
“Mental Health is a huge part of the awareness associated with Pride Month,” Wheeler said.
The Reluctant Fisherman hosted a colorful DJ dance party in honor of Pride and it was a celebratory atmosphere and very well attended.
“I think there is no time like the present to come show support to your neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends,” Wheeler said. “Division doesn’t make us stronger as a community, unity does.”
The celebratory tone of all the events is meant to include everyone to participate, and but are many other messages being communicated as well.
“Pride isn’t just about being queer, it’s actually a celebration of awareness to solidarity, humanity, equality, and resistance to prejudice, discrimination, and violence,” Wheeler said.
While Cordova has not hosted Pride events like this before, that doesn’t mean the LGBTQ community was not present.
“Growing up here, if Pride was celebrated on a community-wide scale, it was unbeknownst to me,” Phillips said. “I have heard of folks privately gathering together on their own though and that’s key to finding a sense of belonging in such a small and remote town.”
The multigenerational support from the community seems to mark the beginning of a new Cordova tradition.
“It was a beautiful beginning to what will grow into an even greater event in the coming years,” Phillips said. “I look forward to working with a committee next year to share ideas and build on what has begun!”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Sarah Phillips who was misidentified as Sarah Stimson in the original publication.