A celebration of diversity, acceptance

Pride in the Park provides opportunity to acknowledge differences

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John Nelmar (left) and Jason Nelmar sit with their 11-month-old daughter Olivia at Phippeny Park for the first annual Pride in the Park event on Saturday in Coeur d'Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - The rainbow cupcakes Mandy Gallegos baked to share at Pride in the Park were a pretty good indication of her excitement to be involved in Saturday's festivities.

"The whole reason I came was just because I like to support my community and I have so many friends here," said Gallegos, of Coeur d'Alene. "I've also never been to a pride event before, so this was really exciting for me to see people from my community and people I've never even met before."

A celebration of diversity and acceptance, Pride in the Park in Phippeny Park welcomed one and all to live music, free lunch, community resources and information, social time and fun activities for all ages, including hula hoops and face painting.

Organizations such as the Unity Church of North Idaho, the Kootenai County Democrats, Human Rights Education Institute, North Idaho Violence Prevention Center and the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Church were on site to mingle with and provide informational materials for the 100 or so people who attended throughout the event.

"I'm pleasantly surprised at how many people showed up today," said Jon Downing, Pride Foundation volunteer and North Idaho College's Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) adviser.

"I've met so many people today."

Downing said an event such as Pride in the Park is important because it provides an opportunity for people to acknowledge each others' differences.

"The hardest thing that we as human beings do, or come to terms with, is difference," he said. "Recognizing that we have differences is really powerful and really important, and that's what we're doing today is just recognizing our difference. Not trying to be in anyone's face, not trying to change anyone's minds, just celebrating who we are."

People who attended could draw words for their "pride name" at the Inland Northwest Business Alliance booth or learn more about the Add the Words movement from officials who traveled from Boise to enjoy the debut of Pride in the Park.

"It's been very well received," said event organizer and PFLAG Coeur d'Alene president Juli Stratton. "It's very overwhelming and humbling that people just want to respect and support each other and build community, and that's what this is about - building community. Not a specific community, but community. That's what I keep talking about and expressing to people. This is not just an LGBT thing. This is about celebrating diversity and our uniqueness and gifts and talents and allowing each other to fully live in our humanity and be ourselves in the most positive way possible."

Pride in the Park was sponsored by NIC's GSA, OutSpokane and PFLAG Coeur d'Alene. It was followed by the 19th annual OutSpokane Pride Cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays) is an organization composed of family, friends and allies of LGBTQ individuals who advocate equality through support, education and advocacy.

Logan Cork decorates a flag on Saturday for Spokane PFLAG to use in their pride march.

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