In the waning days of Pride Month, Aroostook County made history by hosting its first-ever Pride parade, with participants starting in both Fort Kent and Houlton to eventually meet up in Caribou.
The event was put together by Pride Aroostook, a volunteer group formed three years ago to celebrate the LGBTQ community in The County, one of the most conservative areas of the state. The parade, which was held on Friday, will be followed by a series of weekend festivities at Spruce Haven in Caribou.
As the parade pulled through towns to pick up each group, cars decorated with colorful streamers and Pride flags honked their horns and people waved and whooped out open windows. It took years for this celebration to manifest and last year, COVID-19 put a hold on any large events.
From left: Two women decorate a van for the Pride parade in Fort Kent; Jennifer Kiandoli, a member of the Aroostook-based Boys and Girls Club of Border Towns, helps decorate a van to take part in Aroostook County’s first-ever pride parade; A corgi proves an ally in a car decorated for the Pride parade in Fort Kent. Credit: Jessica Potila & Alexander MacDougall | St. John Valley Times & Houlton Pioneer Times
In Houlton, only a few cars of participants had gathered to join at the starting point, but were greeted by a small crowd of supporters to send them off and express solidarity with those taking part in the parade.
“I’m just happy that it’s finally happening in northern Maine,” said Katie Webb, one of the Pride parade participants. “We don’t have a lot of support for the gay community or anything like this. There’s so many churches and it’s such a religious-heavy area.”
“We lose so many people just because they feel like they can’t even express themselves,” said Cricket Griffith, another Pride participant. “It’s just so sad, and I want everyone to know that there’s support out there, and to live your best life.”
Robert-Michael Giordano, who serves on the organizing board for Pride Aroostook, celebrated a personal accomplishment this weekend too: his first-ever Pride celebration. He joined the parade in Madawaska.
From left (clockwise): Robert-Michael (right) and Nicky Giordano wear a pride flag like a cape just before they join the parade as it leaves Madawaska; A van decorated for Pride Month leaves the Presque Isle Boys & Girls Club as part of a parade caravan headed to Caribou on Friday; Pride Aroostook supporters gather before leaving the Presque Isle Boys & Girls Club for Spruce Haven in Caribou early Friday evening. Credit:
Being with his community in person is something Giordano has been especially looking forward to, meeting people he’s only ever been able to connect with online.
“If we want to be flamboyant and silly and all that, that people would make fun of you and throw stones at you for, we can do that by ourselves,” Giordano said.