Elizabeth Apgar attends Farmington’s first LGBTQ+ pride festival Saturday at Meetinghouse Park. Apgar came out last year and said they felt a place of belonging at the festival. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — It was a historic day for Farmington on Saturday at the town’s first LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival.

Hundreds of people of all ages, genders and sexualities gathered to advocate for queer rights and celebrate acceptance in downtown at Meetinghouse Park, bedecked in rainbow pride flags and signs advocating for queer and transgender rights.

Acceptance was certainly the resounding theme for the day, with attendee after attendee echoing how amazing it was to feel welcomed and celebrate for the day in a rural area.

Ahead of the event, Farmington Pride organizer AJ Saulnier said the intention for the festival was to create “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.”

Kicking off the event, Saulnier told the crowd “hopefully it’s the first in a tradition of Farmington Pride Festivals.”

“We’re here to celebrate and show love,” he said.


Throughout the day, local musicians performed while kids and adults alike danced.

At 12:30 p.m., a march kicked off from Meetinghouse Park, down Front Street and up Main Street. Along the way, waving flags and carrying signs, the group chanted “queer rights are human rights” while drivers passing by honked their horns in support.

For some attendees, it was their very first pride festival.

Elizabeth Apgar, who came out last year, said it was amazing to have “the representation and a place of belonging” after growing up in a strictly Christian home.

For Josh Clifford, it was a time to embrace his identity in his town.

“I love pride and I love this town,” he said. “I moved here four years ago and am so excited to celebrate. It’s all coming together.”


Alongside music and activities, the park was filled with representatives from different institutions and organizations from the area and across the state.

Equality Maine, Maine Family Planning, Safe Voices, Maine Friends of the Satanic Temple, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services and more all had booths to offer attendees resources.

The Rev. Marraine Kettell and congregants from Farmington’s Old South Church set up shop to offer acceptance as one of the few churches in the region that is accepting of LGBTQ+ people, also known as an “open and affirming” church.

“You hear a lot of ‘god loves you’ (in Christianity),” Kettell said. “We, as the institution of churches, need to lean into that. If we’re being evasive, judgmental, we are not doing what we’re meant to in this world.”

Old South Church congregants Robin Beck and John Demers-Lidnei sit in front of their respective partners, Patty Henges and Ron Lidnei-Demers, at a booth for Old South Church, one of the few “open and affirming” churches for LGBTQ+ people in the area. Beck said it’s important to make sure all people feel welcome. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Alongside Kettell, Church Moderator Robin Beck, and deacons Patty Henges, John Demers-Lidnei, and Ron Lidnei-Demers attended the festival as LGBTQ+ members of the congregation.

Beck said it’s important the Old South Church make it clear “we welcome anyone with no judgement, because there’s a lot of people out there who need that.”


“It’s important to feel safe and welcome,” Demers-Lidnei said. “It’s about time that people are accepting us.”

As members of the LGBTQ+ community’s older generations, Demers-Lidnei highlighted the challenges the group had faced in finding acceptance over the years.

Not so long ago, you could lose your job, housing, access to spousal health-insurance and more because you are queer, he said.

Ron, Demers-Lidnei’s partner of 39 years this month, said that “it was hard not being able to be ourselves” as a gay couple when they first moved to the area.

“I love seeing all the young folks celebrating, but they need to understand what we’ve fought for,” Henges said.

With these concerns in mind, there was at times a somber tone to the day.


Yesterday it was announced that the Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade case guaranteeing Americans the constitutional right to an abortion.

Advocates and experts alike fear that the precedent set by this decision could set the stage to rollback other rights in America.

In a separate concurring opinion, “Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should review other precedents, including its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, a 2003 decision striking down laws criminalizing gay sex and a 1965 decision declaring that married couples have a right to use contraception,” according to AP.

At the same time, America has seen anti-LGBTQ+ legislation put forth, a spike in homophobic, transphobic violence and hate crimes and even attempted attacks on other pride celebrations.

Attendees march down Main Street chanting “queer rights are human rights” before returning to Meetinghouse Park on Saturday at Farmington’s LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

In a speech, Saulnier encouraged attendees to “support each other” during these challenging times.

Farmington Pride organizers also set up QR codes around the park where attendees could find donation pages for Planned Parenthood and Maine Family Planning.


But, attendee Kristina Tomasova said, a celebration like this is more important than ever.

“It’s important to show this community not just exists, but is thriving,” Tomasova said. “And for the individual that might be crushed by what’s happening in Washington, around the country and the world, this [festival] shows them they’re not by themselves.”

“There’s a spirit there that’s not going to get crushed,” she said.

Ultimately, the festival was about joy, celebration, and acceptance.

“It’s important to get the word out that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” Danni Meng said.

“I’m ready to happy cry. This shattered my expectations,” Saulnier while taking in the crowd following the march. “I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out, but this means we have a beautiful community.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.