‘Today is our day’: Hendersonville celebrates first Pride event

Hendersonville representatives of Free Mom Hugs
FILLED WITH PRIDE: Among those celebrating Hendersonville's first Pride day were, from left, Laura Oliver, Laura Mershimer, Stacy Mauger and Paulette Magee, parent allies of LGBT youths. The quartet was representing Free Mom Hugs, a nonprofit offering support, education and empowerment for the LGBT community and allies. Photo by Timothy Burkhardt

The parking lot was full, and the crowded picnic area surrounding the pavilion at Patton Park blazed with color. The inaugural Hendersonville Pride Day held on June 15 included music, a potluck picnic and speeches honoring Pride day and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an uprising of the New York LGBTQ community in response to a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar.

Mayor Barbara Volk’s proclamation of Hendersonville Pride Day generated no small amount controversy leading up to the event. Police opposed a request for a Main Street parade, saying it would cause traffic problems, and the mayoral proclamation drew vocal opposition from local religious groups and members of Hendersonville City Council during a June 6 meeting. But despite the hoopla, no protesters turned out at the actual gathering.

SOUTHERN COMFORT: A potluck picnic and celebratory speeches provided the entertainment at the Patton Park pavilion for Hendersonville’s first Pride celebration on June 15. Photo by Timothy Burkhardt

“We’ve had a little pushback,” said event organizer Laura Bannister. “There was a religious service here the other night; they prayed and burned sage in the pavilion, but that’s all right.”

“Today is our day,” said Bannister. “Look at how many people support gay pride and our right to exist here in Hendersonville without being undercover.”

Members of the Hendersonville LGBTQ community see the city’s first Pride celebration as a major cultural shift for the area. Karla Miller, the new pastor of the First Congregational Church in Hendersonville, was among those who welcomed the change. “My wife and I moved here from Boston in February,” she said. “I lived here 20 years ago, and I never thought that this would happen in Hendersonville. It’s amazing. Look at all the people!”

Stacy Mauger of Hendersonville attended the Pride picnic with a group of family members and allies to the gay community. “I’m the proud mother of a lesbian daughter and I believe that she should be comfortable and included everywhere. Hendersonville is stepping up to the plate to give her that level of acceptance,” she said.

Artie Hartsell is the statewide lead organizer for Equality NC and lives in Waynesville. He said it is important that celebrations of gay pride aren’t restricted to big cities. “I love when every area gets a Pride, because sometimes it’s a resistance to local culture and sometimes it’s a celebration. … It’s just really exciting to have the visibility in the local community.”

Susan Bonk and her partner Becky Evans moved to Hendersonville three years ago. “To allow them to have a Pride picnic here is huge and expresses the overall welcome that we have received within the community,” Bonk said. “We were concerned when we moved to a small Western North Carolina town but we found it more than just accepting. It has been welcoming.”

“The best of Hendersonville is today,” Bonk said.


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3 thoughts on “‘Today is our day’: Hendersonville celebrates first Pride event

  1. Nicole Parker

    There are some untrue statements made by Laura Bannister published in this …. I am the wife of Pastor Travis Parker & I was there at the prayer service that was held on June 13th & sat on the front row & videoed the entire service & not hiding in the bushes like the person who went live for 20min out of 2+ hours along with close to 200-225 people & I can promise you & prove there was no sage being burnt because we dont do that type of stuff in our church nor “speak in tongues” like some are saying… we also had a permit & rented the Patton Park Pavilion & notified the Chief of Police days before we met to pray… I will gladly answer all questions & clear up all these false accusations & statements if you want to email us at WeStillStandHendersonville@yahoo.com

    • Kim Patterson

      Now you know what it feels like to have to fight for your truth. Just like the lgbtq community. Smh…

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