AS A POLICE OFFICER directs traffic on Sunday, above, members of LGBTQ+ Spectrum of Findlay paint a rainbow-colored map of Ohio at the intersection of Main and Main Cross streets, in preparation for Pride weekend activities to be held May 30-June 2. Below, Kayla Harris, on the ladder, and Lindsay Testerman paint rainbow colors on the windows of Wilson’s Sandwich Shop. Windows also were painted Sunday at the Main Street Deli downtown. (Photos by Presly Phillips / The Courier)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN
LIFE EDITOR

Downtown Findlay is getting decidedly more colorful, as LGBTQ+ Spectrum of Findlay prepares for Pride weekend.

Rainbow-striped banners will soon wave from light posts, several restaurant fronts have decorations proclaiming gay pride, and a 20-foot by 20-foot rainbow-colored street painting adorns the intersection of Main and Main Cross streets.

The displays are a bold reminder that, despite its conservative roots, Findlay has an active, thriving LGBTQ+ community.

The colorful decorations are also a testament to a shift in culture, where city and business leaders are aspiring to make Findlay an inclusive and welcoming community.

LGBT Pride Month in June will bring a host of Spectrum-sponsored activities. No longer a quiet backyard picnic at a private residence, Findlay’s Pride celebration has blossomed into a weekend-long celebration backed by multiple corporate sponsors, including Marathon Petroleum Corp., Cooper Tire, Whirlpool, RPM, Equitas Health, The Courier, Social Findlay and Coffee Amici.

Dr. Jasmin Bradley, board secretary for Spectrum, said this show of corporate backing gives credibility to the group — “And with credibility comes more support. And with more support comes more progress.”

Spectrum has “so much support from downtown. We’re truly thankful for that,” she said.

The street painting, which was done Sunday night, and the light post banners, expected to be hung this week, were facilitated through the mayor’s office.

“The City of Findlay believes in celebrating the diversity of our citizens and supporting equality for all. Everyone is welcome no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, education, political affiliation, etc.,” Mayor Christina Muryn said.

“Our community is stronger when we recognize the value that each unique person adds to our community. My hope is that the citizens of Findlay, whether they agree or disagree, take this opportunity to learn a bit more about the history that led to Pride Month,” Muryn said.

Kathy Launder from the mayor’s office said organizations wishing to display light post banners must submit an application and a fee, and must purchase the banners themselves. An organization can hang a maximum of 12 banners at once (out of 106 total banner locations available), and they hang for three-month intervals.

The city street department will hang the rainbow banners sometime this week.

A similar application process is followed for any group seeking to do a street painting, Launder says.

Both Main Street Deli and Wilson’s Sandwich Shop allowed their windows to be splashed Sunday with rainbows and information about upcoming Pride events.

This type of community display brings visibility to the local gay community, and signals to young people and anyone else who needs to hear it “that you can survive and thrive in Findlay” as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Bradley said.

Stefanie Griffith, communications manager for Marathon Petroleum, said the company is a supporter of Findlay Pride.

“At MPC, we value diversity and strive to foster inclusive environments at work and in communities. We are proud to support a variety of inclusive events and activities, including the Findlay family Pride picnic,” Griffith said.

Cooper Tire, too, shared its support of the local LGBTQ+ community: “Cooper is a proud sponsor of the Pride picnic. As a company, we work hard to provide an environment where all employees feel welcome, respected and valued for who they are and for their contributions. In our communities, we are passionate about helping to raise the level of respect and inclusion for all people, and events such as the Pride picnic are a great way to help achieve this,” said Karil Morrissey, vice president of global talent, organizational development and diversity for Cooper Tire.

Pride events in Findlay have grown significantly since they were first organized in about 2004 as luncheons through the Open Door Community Church.

Spectrum was founded in 2010 by a group of friends wishing to build a support network for the LGBTQ+ community, and the agency received nonprofit status in 2011. About that time, the annual Pride picnic moved out of backyards and into the park system, Bradley said.

She got involved with the agency in 2017 when she joined its board. That year’s picnic drew about 180 people to Riverside Park, and the 2018 picnic attracted over 300.

With the added momentum from local sponsors — and two Visit Findlay grants to support Spectrum’s marketing budget and other financial needs — this year’s Pride festivities have expanded to an entire weekend’s worth of activities.

Events will kick off with a Thursday evening mixer, followed by Saturday morning yoga, the afternoon picnic at Riverside Park, and an after-party. The weekend closes with Sunday brunch.

Organizers expect over 500 people from the region to attend the picnic alone.

These events are open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Community allies, including friends and family, are welcome to attend these celebrations of love and diversity — and their support means more than they may know, said Spectrum board president William Grose.

“It all just works around working together — as a community and as a family,” Grose says.

Bradley noted that civil rights relating to the gay community are lacking in Ohio, where a person can still be fired or denied housing based on sexual orientation. Pride events help reinforce the need for those basic civil protections, she said.

“It’s about visibility and equality and working to create lived equality,” Bradley said.

Both board members said Findlay has an established and vocal community of LGBTQ+ allies, but more are needed. Anyone interested in learning more about being an ally can visit PFLAG’s Straight for Equality page at www.straightforequality.org or the Human Rights Campaign’s website. Spectrum’s website also includes a local ally directory.

Spectrum offers a variety of local resources, including three support groups and social events such as a book club and monthly mixer. All are listed at spectrumoffindlaylgbt.org, along with volunteer opportunities.

Pride events schedule

Residents of the Findlay area will have multiple opportunities to show their Pride in coming days, with this year’s festivities extending beyond the usual picnic.

Pride events are:

Thursday, May 30

• Pre-Pride Mixer, 6-8 p.m., Mancy’s at Hancock Hotel. Everyone is welcome at the LGBTQ+ Spectrum monthly mixer to join old friends and meet new ones, along with business and community leaders. Free to attend.

Saturday, June 1

• Yoga in the Park, 9-11 a.m., Riverside Park, free.

• Pride Picnic, noon to 4 p.m., Riverside Park. Live music, complementary lunch by Legends, kids’ zone, youth area, rainbow market, bingo hall, raffles and prizes. Free to attend, but donations will be accepted for future Spectrum events.

• Pride Picnic After-Party, 7 p.m. to midnight, Hilton Garden Inn. Drink, dance and be merry. Free to attend.

Sunday, June 2

• Pride Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Hilton Garden Inn. $15 ticket includes breakfast, with alcoholic beverages available for additional cost. Tickets and more information available at spectrumoffindlaylgbt.org/2019-pride

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