It’s June, and that means it’s Pride Month! Often celebrated across the United States with parades and fun events to honor LGBTQ+ voices and experiences, Pride is also about bringing awareness to the issues members of the community still face and remembering the Stonewall uprising.

Celebrate Pride in Lewis County
Supporting our local LGBTQ+ population in Lewis County is essential for a healthy and happy community. Photo courtesy: Lewis County Pride

In June of 1969, patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn rebelled against police harassment to which these Americans were unjustly subjected. This pivotal moment in our past catalyzed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. While we can’t easily visit sites where LGBTQ+ history was made, there are plenty of fun ways to celebrate Pride Month right here in Lewis County.

Rural Youth Alliance

Rural Youth Alliance is a nonprofit supporting and advocating for sexually gender-diverse youth by connecting with allies and service partners and empowering our rural community through education and outreach.

Hosting an exciting trading card collecting event all June, Rural Youth Alliance invites all ages to visit local participating affirming businesses to collect art cards of famous, historical and influential queer figures. Starting on June 2, Shakespeare & Company Used Books in Chehalis, and StrangeLand’s Oddities, Omens, & Charms in Centralia are the starting points for more information about this fun Pride scavenger hunt.

With eight participating businesses distributing the trading cards, also keep an eye on RYA’s Facebook and Instagram for multiple extra pop-up cards supplied at events, businesses and markets throughout the month. Collect five or more cards for a chance to win a beautiful handmade rainbow quilt made by a local artist. Just submit your entry at one of the starting points or send RYA an image of all five cards for your submission.

Pride Sale with Gaean Allusions Pottery

Celebrate Pride in Lewis County
Local artists Karen and Godfrey Betts, along with one of their five daughters, Freya, create charming and functional pottery pieces in Chehalis. Photo courtesy: Gaean Allusions Pottery

Support Rural Youth Alliance and local artists with the Gaean Allusions Pottery Pride sale! The Chehalis-based potters are donating 10% of all their rainbow ware sold to Rural Youth Alliance for all of June. Find their beautiful and functional pottery on Etsy, through personal orders and at events such as the Centralia Farmers Market. Businesses can get in on the fun too! Ten percent of promotional Pride window painting from Holiday Windows by Karen Betts will also be donated to Rural Youth Alliance.

Lewis County Pride

Pine Street Plaza
100 E. Pine St., Centralia

On June 25, don’t miss the area’s largest Pride celebration at Centralia’s Pine Street Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All ages are welcome at the family-friendly event offering a kid’s corner with crafts and face painting, and entertainment for everyone all day. Also, find resource tables from helpful local agencies such as Lewis County Public Health & Social Services, Community Youth Services, faith-based services from several churches, Centralia Prevention Coalition, and Lewis County Seniors promoting their senior companion program that includes LGBTQ+ residents.

Celebrate Pride in Lewis County
On June 25, don’t miss the area’s largest Pride celebration at Centralia’s Pine Street Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo courtesy: Lewis County Pride

“What is so exciting about planning this whole thing is we are really building on a long history of LGBTQ+ people in Lewis County,” says one of the event organizers Mary McHale. “It’s been awesome to see there is so much energy and support from local businesses and organizations.”

In reviewing the most recent local Healthy Youth Survey results from 8th graders, McHale points out that 17% of Lewis County kids report being bullied because of their LGBTQ+ status. “Studies have shown that those youth are at higher risk of suicide due to bullying and discrimination experienced in their communities,” McHale says. “Having these visible and affirming community spaces is so critical in reducing the risk of suicide, especially among youth. We are all worried about the mental health of our kids.”

In its second year, Lewis County Pride is the result of the work of the community. “What’s been so awesome about this event is it is not tied to a specific organization, but it’s really from the teamwork of individuals and the support of local businesses,” McHale says. “This truly is a community event. Anybody in our county is welcome to attend and feel the love and support from our community. It’s going to be a really fun day!”

Celebrate Pride in Lewis County
Inspired by Wheeler’s advocacy work, Jacky Vance painted her fence in a rainbow pattern. The two became friends and the pair are encouraged by the response to the Friendship Fence from all over the world. “It’s interesting to see these little beacons can shine enough light to hit somebody’s heart halfway around the world,” says Wheeler. Photo credit: Krysta Carper

Lewis County Welcomes Everyone

Show your Pride right in your own yard or window with a Lewis County Welcomes Everyone sign from Lewis County Lollipop Guild. LCLG is an intersectional community organization with a mission of welcoming and supporting marginalized voices, open-minded businesses, and affirmative policymakers in Lewis County.

“It’s about making people feel seen,” founder Kyle Wheeler says. “Queer people exist everywhere.”

Lewis County Lollipop Guild offers free Lewis County Welcomes Everyone signs all month for Pride. Request your own sign here. Your address for delivery must be within the boundaries of Lewis County.

Chehalis Friendship Fence

622 NW Pennsylvania Ave., Chehalis

The Chehalis Friendship Fence is a public art project featuring bright rainbow colors as a visible show of community support. Not only is this colorful fence a fantastic spot to snap a selfie or take a pic with friends, but community members can also submit their message to display their support. Metal tags are stamped and hung from the fence with the hope of one day seeing the friendship fence covered in metal hearts of solidarity.

The friendly homeowner Jacky Vance invites community members to stop by take a picture and use the lending library for a book or hygiene items. You can even pick up a Lewis County Welcomes Everyone sign while you are there. Photo credit: Krysta Carper

“It’s been really well received by people who are long-term Lewis County residents, who have been aching to see a more welcoming community,” the homeowner Jacky Vance says. “People just walk up and tell me their stories about how they felt living here and how this is a beacon of light for all of them.”

Recently some adjustments were made to the fence to allow for an additional art installation on the side facing West Street so local artists can paint the panels. The extra space allows for a future community garden dubbed a “gARTen.” Keep an eye on the Chehalis Friendship Fence Facebook for more information soon about how to join in the fun.

Since Stonewall, the number of allies joining hands with the LGTBQ+ community to support equal rights and recognition has grown exponentially. This June is a chance to celebrate all of those hard accomplishments and look to a future where everyone feels loved right here in Lewis County!

Hosting a Pride event in Lewis County? Send us an email at submit@lewistalk and let us know!

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