Two years ago, in the early stages of the pandemic, a South Kingstown High School student had a simple idea to celebrate Pride Month, held in June to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City on June 28, 1969.
“Magnolia Longworth posted in the Our Town: South Kingstown Facebook group asking if anyone would be interested in recognizing Pride Month by participating in a car parade,” shares Lou Chrostowski, a board member with the South County Pride Foundation. Of course, many events were canceled that summer due to COVID – not to mention, there had never been an official Pride parade in South Kingstown – so Longworth’s post was a courageous act.
The parade came to fruition and was a modest success that year, with about 15 cars driving through Wakefield. “People dressed in Pride colors and decorated their cars for the event,” says Chrostowski, referring to the colors of the rainbow adapted by the Queer community.
That grassroots rally empowered Longworth to come back even stronger in 2021. Last year, Magnolia partnered with fellow student Evan Travis to expand the event beyond the car parade. They teamed up with the Wakefield Village Association and held the parade and a Pride celebration in conjunction with the first RiverFire of the season.
“The event was a huge success,” says Chrostowski. “Magnolia and Evan were motivated to see that it continues after they both graduate high school. Magnolia decided to do her senior project to ensure that this continues by creating the South County Pride Foundation.” The foundation’s current board consists of both Longworth and Travis, along with Sarah LeClair, Amelia Ortega, Lou Chrostowski, and Doug Shapiro.
This year’s parade takes place on June 23. “The support from local businesses has been great and continues to grow,” says Chrostowski. “The committee is partnering with the Wakefield Village Association, the Contemporary Theater Company, and Phil’s Restaurant.” The South County Chamber of Commerce and South County Hospital are also taking active roles in this year’s events.
Volunteers and businesses are invited to support the parade by displaying rainbow flags, setting up vendor booths, donating gift baskets, or contributing to a GoFundMe account to help fund the parade as well as future services to the community.
“People from all walks of life and of all ages have not only attended the event, but have become actively involved,” says Chrostowski. “We are fortunate that we live in a community that embraces diversity. Considering what is going on in other parts of the United States, the support for the LGBTQIA+ community here has been amazing.”
“Right now, celebrating Pride is more than going to a festival,” adds co-founder Travis. “It can feel scary to be in a country where politicians are using you and your community as scapegoats for political gain. Having an opportunity to see the community being open, happy, and unapologetically themselves is so uplifting.”
The parade begins at 3pm on June 23, assembling at Peace Dale Congregational Church, with a celebration following at 6pm coinciding with RiverFire.
To learn more, visit Facebook: South County Pride.
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