Chester County Pride returns after decade-long hiatus

Chester County Pride returns after decade-long hiatus

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When Rachel Stevenson moved to Phoenixville in 2006, Frank Jeffrey’s had just lost one of its cofounders. Still, the borough’s only gay bar at the time remained a popular spot for the LGBT community. Stevenson met her wife there shortly before it closed around 2008. 

Stevenson, who is organizing Chester County Pride in June, said the event will pay homage to the former bar owners who were also instrumental in the original Pride festival in Phoenixville: Jeff Rudd and his partner Frank Viera.

The last time the borough hosted a Pride festival was 2005, a few months before Rudd’s sudden death. Viera also died last year from cancer.

“We wanted to make sure we were honoring the people who laid the groundwork before us,” Stevenson said of reviving Pride after 11 years.

Chester County Pride takes place June 4 and 5. Several activities are slated from noon-5 p.m. Saturday at Reeves Park, Second Avenue and Main Street, Phoenixville. It’s free to attend. The event kicks off with local students singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “True Colors” as a tribute to Rudd and Viera.

Phoenixville Mayor Michael Speck will serve as grand marshal. He said he didn’t have to think twice about accepting the position.

“I’m very proud of our community,” he said. “We are an open, inclusive place. As mayor, I stand behind that statement of who we are.”

Speck will speak and spend a couple hours at Pride before leaving to marry a same-sex couple.

Carl Max, a local Whitney Houston impersonator, will be crowned Pride Queen.

Students from GSA organizations at Phoenixville, Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove school districts helped plan the event.

“Ours is extremely family-friendly as opposed to some other Prides,” Stevenson said.

She added it’s good to give Chester County residents a local option to celebrate the LGBT community, so they don’t have to travel to Philadelphia.

“A lot of people can’t get into the city or don’t want to,” Stevenson said. “We can bring awareness here to people who may not yet know enough to be an ally.”

Further activities for Chester County Pride include: PJ Ryan’s at 233 Bridge St., the former location of Frank Jeffrey’s, will host a happy hour with free appetizers immediately after Saturday’s activities in the park. Mama’s Black Sheep also has a concert scheduled at 7 p.m. at Molly Maguire’s, 197 Bridge St.

On Sunday, there will be a Pride Gala Fundraiser for LGBTea Dances, the educational and social organization that Stevenson started last year. The gala at Spring Hollow Golf Club, 3350 Schuylkill Road, East Vincent Township, starts at noon and tickets cost $75. There are about 30 tickets remaining, Stevenson said.

Lead sponsors are Virtual Farm Creative, Dow Chemical, Pfizer and Sanctuary Counseling.

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