After the Ellsworth City Council deadlocked on whether to let some downtown crosswalks be repainted in rainbow colors, a group of local high school students found a different way to bring a splash of color along Main Street to celebrate the local LGBTQ community.
Hanging from the city’s ornamental street lights on Main Street are 12 brightly colored banners that show support for area LGBTQ residents. The banners will be in place for the month of June, when Pride events are held throughout the country.
In Ellsworth, a local Pride festival is planned for Sunday afternoon at Knowlton Park on State Street, where the local high school’s Gender Sexual Diversity Alliance erected a “Pride zoo” of brightly colored animal sculptures. The festival — which has been organized by the local groups Ellsworth Pride, Heart of Ellsworth and Healthy Acadia — will be a family-friendly event suitable for children that features musical performances by the high school’s jazz band combo and show choir, a drag show, and a drag queen story hour.
The debate in Ellsworth over painting crosswalks in rainbow colors arose last summer, when the Ellsworth High School student group approached city officials about repainting some crosswalks. The city’s school committee gave the go-ahead to repaint one crosswalk at the high school and another at the city’s elementary-middle school, but the city council was evenly split on whether to allow additional crosswalks downtown to be repainted, and so did not approve the request.
Other municipalities in Maine have repainted crosswalks in rainbow colors this month in conjunction with planned local Pride celebrations, including Bangor and Bar Harbor. Even without the crosswalks painted, some downtown Ellsworth business owners have displayed rainbow flags at their stores.
After the council’s split 3-3 vote last summer, it appointed a committee to see if there might be a way to resolve the concerns some council members had about repainting crosswalks in bright colors, but the committee failed to reach a consensus and was disbanded.
Glenn Moshier, Ellsworth’s city manager, said the high school group and its adviser, teacher Carrie Kutny, approached him this spring to ask about putting Pride flags up on Main Street, but the city did not want to stop its annual practice of hanging the American flag and associated military flags on the lamp posts during summer months. Moshier said he consulted with several members of the council and was told to try to reach a compromise, so he suggested the banners, which hang down parallel to the posts either above or below the flags.
“Initially the students weren’t crazy about the idea but they accepted it and the banners were hung and will remain until the end of June,” Moshier said.
As for the local Pride festival on Sunday, Moshier said the city has not endorsed or disavowed the event. He said the city does not deny anyone permission to use the public park but, to make sure there aren’t multiple competing events planned for the same time, the city had Ellsworth Pride fill out and submit the appropriate paperwork. The group has met all the city’s requirements and “the event is a go,” he said.
Kutny said she is proud of the leadership the students in the high school group have shown in spearheading the effort, and in talking to city officials to reach an agreement on how Ellsworth could show public displays of support for the LGBTQ community.
“We got rainbows on Main Street,” Kutny said. “I feel like it was a success.”