Attendees march down Main Street chanting “queer rights are human rights” before returning to Meetinghouse Park on Saturday, June 25, at Farmington’s LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival. Attendees said it was a special day to see the LGBTQ+ community gather in Farmington and find a place of acceptance. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — It was a historic day for Farmington on Saturday, June 25, at the town’s first LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival.

Hundreds of people of all ages, genders, sexualities and religions gathered downtown to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and celebrate acceptance 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. Attendee after attendee echoed how amazing it was to feel welcomed and celebrate pride 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.”

Farmington Pride attendees march down Main Street with signs and chants advocating for gun control, abortion rights and queer rights during the town’s first LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival Saturday, June 25. Attendees said the pride festivities send messages of resiliency and strength at a time when LGBTQ+ and women’s rights are at risk across America. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

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 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” and “my body, my choice,” 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.

From left, boyfriends Travis Wood and Josh Clifford walk hand in hand in front of Clifford’s mother, July Miller at left, during Farmington’s first LGBTQ+ Pride March on Saturday, June 25. Clifford said he was excited to celebrate in Farmington, where he’s lived for four years. “I love Pride and I love this town,” he said. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

For Josh Clifford, it was a time to embrace his identity in his own town after attending pride festivals elsewhere in Maine.

“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, activities and vendors, the park was filled with representatives from different institutions and organizations.

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 the Old South Church booth at Farmington’s LGBTQ+ Pride Festival Saturday, June 25. Old South Church is 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 Old South Church makes 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.”

Elizabeth Apgar blows bubbles in Meetinghouse Park at Farmington’s first LGBTQ+ Pride Festival Saturday, June 25. Apgar came out last year and said they felt a place of belonging at the festival. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

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, Beck’s wife, added.

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


Friday, June 24, it was announced the Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade case guaranteeing Americans the constitutional right to an abortion.

Advocates and experts fear that the precedent set by this decision could set the stage to roll back 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.

Farmington Pride organizer AJ Saulnier, center, dances along to music during the town’s first LGBTQ+ Pride March and Festival held Saturday, June 25, at Meetinghouse Park. Saulnier said his expectations were “shattered” and he feels confident Farmington has a “beautiful community” of queer people. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

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

He finished his speech quoting Greek storyteller Aesop, telling the crowd “‘united we stand, divided we fall.'”


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

From left, Amelia Tierney, Abbey Goodspeed, Anna Hyde, Bridget Reusch, and Grace Bell sit on a hill in Meetinghouse Park during Farmington’s first LGBTQ+ Pride Fesitval and March Saturday, June 25. Bell called the festival a “celebration of the people,” while Hyde said she enjoyed being surrounded by the happy crowd. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

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,” organizer Danni Meng said.

“I’m ready to happy cry. This shattered my expectations,” Saulnier said 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.”

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