In 2018, Pride finally made it officially to Homer, Alaska.
The first ever Pride March was held in the city on Saturday, with participants coloring the streets with rainbows, music and joy from WKFL Park on Pioneer Avenue to Grace Ridge Brewery on Ocean Drive.
An estimated 280 men, women and children (and several dogs) turned out for the event. It was the first march held during the first official Pride Month the city has seen. Mayor Bryan Zak read a mayoral recognition of Pride Month outside Homer City Hall on June 11, after the council meeting where the recognition was meant to be read was canceled. Three council members declined to attend the day of the meeting, causing there to be a lack of a quorum.
You’d never guess the mayoral recognition had ignited a recent controversy while observing Saturday’s celebration, though. Participants young and old painted faces and mingled with each other at WKFL Park before setting off on the march.
Catriona Reynolds, executive director of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, is one of the people who helped organize the march. The idea was floated about a year ago, she said, but the timing wasn’t quite right since it wasn’t June.
Matthew Smith and Jason Davis moved to Homer about a year ago and were also behind the push for Pride Month. They co-signed the letter sent to Zak asking for a mayoral recognition, helped reserve the park and analyzed the march route.
Smith and Davis said they were worried at first that their family of five would make up half the pride participants. They were happy to see all the families that came out to celebrate in the end.
Several members of local government and the clergy also came out to show their support for the LGBTQ community, including Zak, Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Alaska), Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Kelly Cooper, Homer City Council member Donna Aderhold and KPBSD School Board member Zen Kelly.
Lisa Talbott, pastor at Homer United Methodist Church, marched with a sign that said “Love your neighbors as yourself.”
“I feel that it’s very important as a Christian to follow Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors,” she said. “And one of the ways that we love our neighbors is showing up, standing in solidarity, especially for people who have been traditionally marginalized or hidden or pushed away, and to lend our voice and our love to show that everybody is a beloved child of God.”
Connor Schmidt is the Peer Education Coordinator for the R.E.C. Room in Homer, which, in addition to providing a safe space for youth and promoting healthy life choices, serves as a meeting place for an LGBTQ support group. He helped organize and promote the march along with Minda Morris, a physical therapist at South Peninsula Hospital.
“I think that Homer should be open and I think that it’s an important part of society,” Morris said of why she wanted to get involved.
“I’m just so excited,” Schmidt said. “It’s cool to see how many teens showed up here. I recognize just so many folks from the R.E.C. Room.”
Participant Kris Holderied said she’s been in a lot of pride marches in a lot of different places, but that something stood out to her about this one.
“In most of those marches it was mostly gay folks, and in Homer, it’s everybody,” she said. “And that kind of support is just heartwarming. And it’s so Homer.”
As Schmidt noticed, a large portion of the march participants on Saturday were made up of teenagers, adolescents and small children. Falcom Greear is a recent Homer High School graduate who said he strongly supports LGTBQ rights, pride, and everyone in the Homer community.
“I was so happy to get off work to come to this because this is a really huge event,” Greear said. “I’m so happy that a lot of people came. I was surprised … this is a great turnout. And Homer … I knew before, but I know now that Homer has more acceptance and love for everyone here.”