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North County's first pride group formed



PRIDE
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North Country Pride members celebrated Pride Month when a rainbow flag went up outside the Littleton Co-Op. The blossoming organization holds its first event on Sept. 12. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
August 06, 2020
LITTLETON — One year ago, a group of people gathered at the Little Village Bookstore to discuss bringing a pride festival to Littleton in June. Despite a pandemic cancellation, the newly-formed North Country Pride scheduled a "Pride Ride" for Sept. 12.

Participants are encouraged to pre-register online for the event as there is a 50-car limit. The route starts at the Littleton Coin Company at 12:30 p.m., and ends with a gathering at Rek.Lis Brewing in Bethlehem. Community members are encouraged to support the motorcade as it travels a route through Littleton, Franconia and Bethlehem.

According to board member Ronnie Sandler, the core purpose of North Country Pride was to create a pride festival. However, she also stated that bringing awareness of the LGBTQ+ community that lives in the region was also important.

"There are a lot of us in the North Country. Some may know many LGBTQ people in the area but many don't. We wanted to bring that awareness to both the local community and LGBTQ+ families living here," said Sandler.

Co-chair Kerri Harrington agreed.

"Education is a topic that has come up a few times. We have a lot of transgender and gay kids in this area. They should know adults are rooting for them. North Country Pride gives them people to look up to and builds a support system for the entire community," she explained.

Feelings of isolation can have a significant impact on LGBTQ+ kids and teens that live in rural areas. However, LGBTQ think-tank Movement Advancement Project (MAP) estimated that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people live in rural America. Roughly translated, it approximates three to five percent of the estimated 62 million rural residents nationwide.

The organization's initial plans for June included a pride parade through Main Street Littleton and a day full of events at the new Riverside Park. Organizations such as the Bread and Puppet Theater, Upstage Players and the Weathervane Theater planned to participate, said Harrington.

The long-term vision for North Country Pride includes the annual June festival and smaller monthly events.

"It's our mission to reach out continually. We want all ages to be involved," noted Harrington.

While the budding collective is working to establish its non-profit status, North Country Pride operates under the fiscal sponsorship of AHEAD Housing. Board members have communicated with pride organizations and counselors at public and private schools throughout the region.

In lieu of the summer festival, board members distributed rainbow flags to multiple businesses in the area. Both Sandler and Harrington anticipate further partnerships as the organization gains momentum.

"Driving into Littleton in the middle of June and seeing the rainbow flag flying at the Co-op, then driving down Main Street with 17 other flags was unbelievable. It was so exciting and it meant so much," stated Sandler.

North Country Pride has listed itself as one of the numerous non-profit organizations vying for one of the eight "Partner of the Month" slots at the Littleton Co-op next year. They've also begun to seek sponsorship from area businesses. Mascoma Savings Bank is the lead sponsor of the Pride Ride event in September.

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