Farmington will be host to its first LGBTQ+ pride festival Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown. Organizers gathered Monday night to start decorating Meetinghouse Park, where the festival will be held following a march. Autumn Fournier sketches the beginnings of a mural that will eventually be covered in characters and rainbow flames. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The downtown is about to get a lot more colorful. Rainbows are expected to be displayed Saturday at the first LGBTQ+ Pride Festival in the town’s history.

The family-friendly festival is to begin with a march through downtown at 11 a.m. and return to Meetinghouse Park for musical performances, community vendors, food, educational resources and activities for all ages.

Farmington Pride organizers AJ Saulnier and Leia Pasquarelli said their goal is to build community in the area and offer queer people a place to feel welcome.

The idea began with Saulnier and other organizers creating a Facebook group for queer people in the Farmington region, similar to other online posting boards in Maine.

“I really wanted to see something specifically for Farmington,” Saulnier said. “I felt like we can build some community here.”

After the group started gaining steam, Saulnier said he realized just how big the local queer community is.


“It’s really refreshing to see,” Pasquarelli, who hails from the Boston region, said. “I think there’s a community here, it’s just how to enrich that and make it more accessible.”

After it took off in March, Farmington Pride organizers set their sights on an event during Pride Month in June.

“My hope (for the festival) is that there’s community, there’s love, there’s acceptance — everyone’s welcome,” Pasquarelli said.

Alongside the festival, Farmington Pride has also been organizing events around Franklin County to offer space for queer people to gather beyond Pride Month celebrations.

Farmington Pride recently began hosting Pride Power Hours on Sundays at the Orange Cat Cafe in Farmington and at Calzolaoi Pasta Co. in Wilton every other Thursday, where attendees can gather, connect and play games.

“It’s really important to have something regular,” Saulnier said. “(We want to make sure) community doesn’t go away once we hit July.”


Farmington is celebrating Pride Month with its first LGBGTQ+ pride festival Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown. Farmington Pride organizers, from left Autumn Fournier, Leia Pasquarelli and Alex Kane gathered Monday night to start decorating Meetinghouse Park, where the festival will be held following a march. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

“It’s about visibility. (In these small towns), it’s not always easy to get places or know where to go to meet people in the (LGBTQ+) community,” Pasquarelli added. “It’s important to connect individuals with each other so they could see they’re not alone.”

Saulnier and Pasquarelli said the community response has, for the most part, been really positive.

“We’ve gotten letters from older people who have been here (for a long time), if not their whole lives, saying, ‘thank you guys for doing this and it’s really refreshing to see … we needed something like this,'” Pasquarelli said.

But that’s not to say it hasn’t all been easy. Farmington Pride received some pushback in Farmington, Maine Area: News & Community, a popular community Facebook group with 5,400 members.

However, Saulnier said they’ve tried to handle any disagreements “diplomatically.”

Recent news has also raised concerns about safety issues at the event.


On June 12, police detained 31 members of an extremist white nationalist group that was planning to riot near a pride event in Idaho.

At the same time, America has seen anti-LGBTQ+ legislation put forth and a spike in homophobic, transphobic violence and hate crimes. As a result organizers across the country told NPR that they are “on edge as Pride Month continues.”

But Saulnier said he has met with Chief Kenneth Charles of the Farmington Police Department to ensure the festival is safe.

In the face of these issues, Pasquarelli and Saulnier said a pride festival in Farmington is coming at an important time with an opportunity to educate.

“There is a lot of vitriol happening and I think vitriol stems from ignorance,” Saulnier said. “If we aren’t working to educate our communities about queerness then people will stay ignorant and stay hateful.”

“I think it’s a really important resource to have for everybody, but most importantly the queer community, to advocate for the rights of everyone,” Pasquarelli said.


Ultimately, Saulnier said Farmington Pride will be about creating “a safe and welcoming atmosphere for queer people” to access community and important resources while also offering an “educational opportunity for people who are allies and willing to learn more.”

“I’m excited to celebrate who I am and be open about it without second-guessing whether I’m telling the wrong person,” Pasquarelli said.

“Pride is about celebrating your authentic self in a loving community,” Saulnier said. “It’s all love.”

The Farmington Pride Festival is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with a march from Meetinghouse Park. After the march, there are to be events at the park until 5 p.m. Farmington Pride is also hosting a bar hop around downtown, with karaoke, set to begin at 5 p.m.

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