By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(June 8, 2023) A little bit of rain did not dampen the spirits of the participants at the first Pride Day celebration in the town of Berlin last Thursday.
“I think this is a big step for Berlin. It means a lot for this community. It signifies more than anything what we stand for as a community and as a town,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said.
“We can all come together, regardless of what we believe or who we love and show that we are kind, and that Berlin is a safe place.”
Patty Gregorio, owner of Saltwater Media in Berlin with her wife, Stephanie Fowler, initiated the idea. They have lived in and operated their business in Berlin for 10 years.
“I had seen in years past, other towns had done pride celebrations,” Gregorio said.
So, she reached out to Councilmember Jack Orris and asked if there was any thought to doing a flag raising.
She received a response immediately, with a request for two flags, which Saltwater Media donated.
“Then the mayor went a step further with a proclamation and to have an event to do a flag raising. It really turned into more of an event than I thought it would be. It’s been wonderful,” Gregorio said.
“As a gay couple, this town has always embraced us and has always been a safe, fun, loving place for us to have a business and make friends. So, to see the pride flag fly on our Town Hall means that this town is accepting of us and all of the other people in this community,” Fowler said.
A crowd of about 30 joined in the celebration as Tyndall read the proclamation and then Councilmember Orris gingerly stepped into the lift of a town bucket truck, with the assistance of Caleb Hunter, First Class Lineman for the town of Berlin.
The crowd applauded as Orris hung the pride flag and then the progress pride flag.
The pride flag is the most well-known of the LGBT flags. Its six colors are symbolic: red equals life, orange symbolizes healing, yellow stands for sunlight, green for nature, indigo for serenity and violet represents the spirit of the LGBTQ people.
The progressive pride flag adds the transgender and people of color who are members of the LGBT community as well, said local writer Andrew Heller.
“Embracing our differences is what community is all about,” Council member Steve Green said.
“Our community is having a bit of a tough time right now, but to see the love, we appreciate it and thank you,” Fowler said.
“It’s becoming more apparent that there is a very vocal community that wants to treat us differently and not allow us to live freely for who we are and who we love.” Fowler said.
“We are seeing the largest number of bills being pushed through to change laws to make it illegal.”
The ACLU is currently tracking 491 bills targeting LGBTQ rights in states across the country.
“With a lot of the rhetoric and violence that has been happening to our community, it is so nice to see it being embraced right here. I think it is fantastic. People came out. I love that we have the progressive flag out as well. I think that really shows all the support,” Heller said.
Heller, wearing the progressive flag on his T-shirt, said all marginalized communities are under attack. The flag represents all marginalized communities and symbolizes that we are all in this together.
“I know some people will see the flag and be angry about it,” Fowler said. “I don’t see the flag as being exclusionary. I see the flag as being inclusive. There are all kinds of people that are members of this community.
“The LGBT community is about love, and embracing who you are, wherever you are and learning to love yourself and love other people,” she said.
Ocean City is hosting its first Pride Parade on Saturday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to noon on the Boardwalk.
The parade route will start at South First Street, up the boardwalk, around the pier and to Second Street, then back down the boardwalk. There will be a photo wall plus tables with partner and sponsor goodies and refreshments. A Pride Prom will be hosted at the Buzzed Word that evening from 6-9 p.m.
Mickie Meinhardt, owner of the Buzzed Word will host the inaugural event. To learn about partnership opportunities for the parade or prom, email email@example.com.