Sunday, July 18, 2021

Pottsville Pridefest Entertains and Educates Schuylkill County on LGBTQ+

Saturday's Pottsville Pridefest event has grown in it's second year bringing special guests to help spread the message of love.

After the success of the Inaugural Pottsville Pride event in 2020 and more time to plan in 2021, organizer Mikaela Gavaletz's work paid off Saturday.

Like the 2020 event, Pottsville Pridefest advocates Unity, Tolerance, Inclusion, Peace, and Love for the LGBTQ+ community.

The event kicked off at the Pottsville Lions Club Amphitheater at General George Joulwan East Side Park shortly after noon and was opened by Pottsville Mayor James Muldowney.

"Our community is in the midst of renewal and growth.  This is taking place because of inclusion, tolerance, and collaboration, which are the same qualities that brought you here today", Muldowney said during the opening.

Mayor Muldowney introduced Galavetz who thanked those in attendance and showed off the Pottsville Lions stage for the event which was adorned with tie dye, flowers, peace signs, and even a camping trailer.

Galavetz introduced the entertainment for the event which included dozens of drag queen and king performances along with some special guest speakers.

Jayne Eckley, a Pottsville native, who is currently a student and is pursuing a Ph.D in psychology and is focusing on the transgender community.

Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who is also a candidate for the U.S. Senate, also attended and was the second speaker at the event.  Prior to speaking Fetterman and his wife Gisele walked the crowd and visited the vendors and stands at the event.

"I'm here today because I have always stood with the LGBTQIA+ community, and especially this particular season, it's been so encouraging to see robust and big crowds at Pride events and traditionally red counties", said Lt. Governor Fetterman.

Fetterman compared Schuylkill County to Warren and Westmoreland Counties where Pride events drew thousands, with a majority of their voters being "Red" as he referred them, or Republican.

"These kind of places are really beginning to embrace that, we don't want to make anyone feel that they aren't a part of all of us."

Also speaking later in the day at the event was state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is also a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and the first openly gay Black man elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Gavaletz said midway through the event Saturday that she was thrilled with the success of the event.

She said that this year's event continued the message of last year of equality, tolerance, inclusion, awareness, and visibility.

Events like Saturday's are to educate the community and "eradicate the hate".

Gaveltz said since last year's event, the community has begun to embrace the message of the event.   She referenced just last week when a group of young people stopped her on the street and gave her a necklace.

"When speaking to them, they thanked me, but I want to turn that around say thank you to them.  Thank you for accepting me and thank you for wanting to know more about the transgender community.  We aren't just something they've seen on Jerry Springer or television that stigmatizes the community." 

Gavaletz says the event will continue on in 2022 and said the event may possibly move to the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds to accommodate the crowds.