On Wednesday, June 15th, Claremont Mayor Dale Girard read out a proclamation declaring June 18th through June 24th, 2023, as Pride Week in Claremont.
TLC Family Resource Center (TLC) and TLC Rural Outright are hosting the fifth annual Rural Pride celebration this year. Joined by local businesses, volunteers, and community partners, Rural Pride includes a weeklong calendar of activities hosted around downtown Claremont.
"Rural Pride was started five years ago by TLC Rural Outright as a way to bring LGBTQIA+ people and allies together to celebrate Pride month. Over the years, Rural Pride has gained continued support from the community with businesses offering Pride related activities or menus, local organizations and volunteers coming together to help plan events, and businesses and individuals providing financial support to both Rural Pride and Rural Outright," says Stephanie Slayton, Executive Director of TLC Family Resource Center.
This year, Rural Pride has several new and returning sponsors including Mascoma Bank, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Bob's Discount Furniture, Hypertherm HOPE Foundation, Amerihealth Caritas New Hampshire, South Congregational Church Newport, Polyculture Brewing, Hannaford's, and Bill Dunn & Tommy Reidy.
“In light of recent systemic and institutionalized bullying nationally, local Pride events are more important than ever. We believe the strength of the broader community is based in diversity, understanding, appreciation and compassion. We've never asked for 'special rights,' we simply want equal rights, which are increasingly under attack," shared Tommy Reidy who, with his partner Bill Dunn, sponsor Pride events around the region.
“As a B Corp and community bank, Mascoma Bank has made a commitment to investing in our local communities. Supporting TLC Rural Pride in Claremont is a great way for us to show our support for our LGBTQIA+ staff, customers, and community members. We are proud to partner with TLC to recognize and celebrate Pride,” stated Zach Johnson, Branch Manager II at Mascoma Bank in Claremont.
In addition to funding partners, TLC Rural Pride has seen an increase in community partners wanting to support Pride as well as year-round activities and efforts with the LGBTQIA+ community. Karen Lipinczyk, Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Claremont, is grateful to find the church is in a “rebirthing” time at the moment when Claremont is also engaged in a renaissance. Located at the south end of the downtown Pleasant Street rebuilding project, church members are excited to participate in activities that contribute to community growth in Claremont and the surrounding region. "Internally we have prayerfully moved through the denominational process toward becoming an Open and Affirming Church which simply means we publicly affirm an inclusive welcome to all and therefore spend our energy seeking to collaborate with partners in the community who are also seeking to ensure that all people find Claremont a welcoming and safe place to live," stated Lipinczyk. For Pride month this has meant participating in and supporting the many events scheduled through Rural Outright. Specifically, First Congregational UCC will host a Pride Trivia Night on Thursday, June 22 from 6-7:30 and invite anyone who is interested to come on down and join the fun.
Other activities that will be happening around Claremont during Rural Pride include a Flag Raising and reading of the Mayor's Proclamation on Monday, June 19th at 5:30 pm at Broad Street Park. "This year, the flag raising will be followed by the Juneteenth Bike Parade and Community Picnic hosted by our community partners, Whitney Skillen, Jonathan Nelson and Jennifer Nelson. This partnership is an opportunity for the community to participate in two activities that celebrate the wonderful diversity in Claremont while acknowledging the past and current challenges faced by both the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities," stated Slayton. On Wednesday, TLC is hosting Pride Bowling at Maple Lanes, which is by reservation only through TLC's website. On Friday, June 23rd, Zoltar's Arcade is hosting a Pride Arcade Night from 7-9. This will be one of the last nights to enjoy Zoltar's, which announced that it is closing at the end of the week. On Saturday, June 24th, TLC is hosting a Pride Picnic in the Park at the Visitors Center from 12-3. "This will be a relaxed afternoon of playing lawn games, arts and crafts, dancing with a DJ and enjoying ice cream with friends and family. Bring your picnic lunch and a lawn chair or blanket and come celebrate Pride with your community," invited Slayton.
TLC Rural Outright, which hosts Rural Pride and other LGBTQIA+ and allies activities in Claremont and the surrounding region, is on a path to grow and expand. TLC has recently received grants from several New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Funds including the Martin Family Fund, Thomas W. Haas Fund, and Respect for All Youth Fund, in addition to Pride event sponsorship from the foundation. "These funds have allowed us to offer additional activities such as our monthly LGBTQIA+ Arts and Crafts nights. We are also planning to hire a coordinator for the TLC Rural Outright program," said Slayton. "Historically, Rural Outright has received less than $5000 per year in funding support, so we were pretty limited in what we could offer and we could not hire any staff to run the program. Now, with this additional support, we will be able to have a dedicated Rural Outright program coordinator and will be able to improve our services and supports in partnership with the LGBTQIA+ community."
“The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation believes that everyone should be able to live with dignity and to feel a sense of belonging and safety in the community they call home,” said Kristen Oliveri, vice president of communications for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. “We are proud to support TLC Rural Outright and sponsor Rural Pride, recognizing and celebrating our LGBTQ+ friends, family, colleagues and neighbors.”
To learn more about TLC Rural Pride and see the Calendar of Events, visit the website at tlcfamilyrc.org/rural-pride-2023. To get involved in Rural Outright or 2024 Pride Planning, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-542-1848.