AUBURN — Some members of the local LGBTQ+ community who have struggled with the cancellation of June’s in-person Pride events found a new outlet to express themselves this month.

Pride L/A — Lewiston-Auburn’s LGBTQ+ organization that runs the twin cities’ annual pride march and festival — had to cancel its Pride Month festivities the past two Junes due to COVID-19 CDC guidelines.

On Saturday, the group and its supporters gathered for an “Out and Spooky” Pride March that led attendees of all ages, sexualities and genders across the Main Street bridge that connects Lewiston and Auburn.

Queer people, allies, kids and cats alike were decked out in rainbows, Halloween costumes, eccentric face masks and the various Pride flags.

Many attendees were at their first pride celebration and had just come out in the last couple years. Others have been attending Lewiston-Auburn’s pride celebrations since Pride L/A held its first march in 2017.

It was the first Pride event for ally Heidi Bernier and her child, Rocky, 13, who came out as nonbinary during the pandemic.

“I’m very happy about this (march). It means so much to me because it’s showing who I am,” Rocky said.

Krystal LaChapelle, who was covered from umbrella to toe in rainbows for her third time at the march, appreciated this opportunity to make, “people feel it’s OK to just be you, just enjoy who you want to be … because we need to make a big statement that people matter.”

Unlike some cities where streets are blocked off, the L/A Pride March took place on the sidewalk. This is in part because it mitigates the march’s police presence — which Pride L/A committee chair Frank Cottle said “can be very triggering for some people in the community.”

Marching on the sidewalk also allowed passersby in cars, on bikes and on foot to express their solidarity with the group by honking their horns and cheering as they crossed paths.

America’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month is celebrated in June. However, Pride L/A found the Halloween season, which some call “the gay Christmas,” an apt time to reunite and celebrate queer identity — especially coming on the heels of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

“Halloween is so important for the community because often we’re seen as freaks or not normal. Halloween is that holiday where it’s socially acceptable to be not normal,” said committee member Alex Pine. “In a lot of ways, it’s a time where we can be ourselves, dress or present the way we want to present and we won’t be judged for it.”

“You’re free to push the bar around Halloween,” said Cottle.

Pine also noted that Halloween gives, “nonqueer people (the) permission to cross some of the lines that queer people cross on a day to day basis … and explore what they are.”

This year’s Pride celebration was limited due to COVID-19 safety concerns and plans that fell together at the last minute, with about 50 people gathering to march. In previous years — and in future years, organizers hope — Lewiston-Auburn’s Pride festivities have included 300-500 people at a festival and march, among other events, that are planned months ahead.

Though they plan to celebrate next year’s Pride Month in other ways, organizers have decided to keep Pride L/A’s march during the Halloween season.

The committee feels this timeframe offers access to college students in Lewiston-Auburn, many of whom work with the organization and are not always in the city during the summer. This time also highlights and celebrates the importance of National Coming Out Day, Cottle added.

“We’d like to step apart from the normal and see what happens when we do it in October,” Cottle said. “It’s a really good time to have a Pride festival.”


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