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This small Vermont town is going all out for its first Pride celebration

Pride of Woodstock VT inaugural LGBTQ Month celebration
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Pride of Woodstock VT's cochairs tell The Advocate how they built the town's inaugural Pride Month celebration from the ground up.

It's not just Pride Month in big cities — suburbs, farmland, and small towns are preparing for the LGBTQ+ time of celebration too.

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For Woodstock, a small town in Vermont about 30 miles east of Rutland, 2024 marks its first-ever Pride celebration, and organizers are working overtime to make it happen. Pride of Woodstock VT's cochairs, Gabriel DeLeon and Seton McIlroy, are aiming to make the festivities as big as possible while still centering what they love about their town's quaint lifestyle.

"We really have tried to keep that in the forefront by having local vendors and nonprofits as a part of this and really bringing in the community," McIlroy told The Advocate. "Obviously I knew that this wasn't going to be DC Pride or P-Town Pride or Burlington Pride, but we could put our own Woodstock spin on it, and we could talk about what's great about Woodstock and our community."

DeLeon first proposed hosting a Pride celebration after he realized the town did not have anything official planned. Building the infrastructure from the ground up would prove to be no easy task, but once DeLeon began speaking with community leaders and business owners, he said their sentiment was clear.

"Even if it's one thing we've got to start from, we have to start somewhere," he said.

The successful organization of Woodstock's Pride celebration has since relied on the support and passion of local community members, who "have donated equipment to us, have donated money, have donated their time," DeLeon said.

The festivities will take place Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, offering over a dozen events across the weekend. These include movie screenings, arts and crafts, trivia, an open mic, and several live performances, such as a drag brunch and a high heel race. DeLeon said the race will be "almost like the Kentucky Derby with all the pageantry."

While the celebration hasn't occurred yet, it has already made an impact on Woodstock's residents. BJ Dunn, who has lived in the town for several years with his husband, believes that the event is "an opportunity to share with not just local people but hopefully people from afar" what's special about his hometown.

"Come celebrate Pride here in Vermont and understand what it is and why we love this community so much," he said.

This significance is not lost on the organizers. For McILroy, the event gives them not only the opportunity to host a fun and inclusive celebration for residents but also the chance to give back to the community for years to come.

"This town has given us so much and has given us such a wonderful home," she said. "I want to give back and I want to do something helpful."

For DeLeon, organizing opened up a side of his community that he had never seen before. After getting to know his neighbors and working with them, he said that "we have a more closely knit community than when we started last May."

"As I went around and talked to people about this, I started talking to people I knew, and I got to know them better. I then also discovered people who I didn't know, and I found out how accomplished they are, how kind they are," he said, adding, "Although we think we have a very close-knit community, we're even closer now over the past year, because we're working towards this one goal of bringing everyone together to celebrate their individuality."

For those who want to launch a Pride celebration in their town, McILroy recommended to "just start by talking to business owners, people at houses of worship, and nonprofits" to see who's interested. The resources may not be there now, but they never will be unless someone starts.

"All of us came from bigger cities, and in those places, you're just used to this sort of Pride infrastructure," she said, continuing, "This is something that we had to very specifically decide to do, because if there's something that's not here, you have to build it yourself."

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.