‘We Can Still Celebrate': Vt. Pride Week Finds Ways to Adapt to COVID-19

Online programming and physically-distanced outdoor events are featured in this year's observance of Vermont Pride Week

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Vermont's LGBTQ+ community is observing Vermont Pride Week, with a series of events that are following COVID-19 safety guidelines.

"I think what Pride is showing us this year is we can still celebrate," said Justin Marsh of the Pride Center of Vermont.

Because of the need for physical distancing, there will be no parade or large festival this year, but conversations, entertainment, and community-building will continue, Marsh noted.

"This Pride, as much of a letdown it is to not have a parade and not have a festival, what I'm keeping with me is that the access folks will have to Pride this year is tenfold," Marsh told NECN.

That access is important to Marsh because online events--forced by the pandemic--can now better reach members of the state's LGBTQ+ community who, because of distance, disability, or transportation issues, might've have had trouble making the trip to Burlington, where most of the programming is usually held.

Virtual gatherings include a yoga class, a film screening and discussion, and even an online Drag Queen story hour.

A full schedule of events is available here.

The program does include in-person outdoor events, like a family bike ride and a physically-distanced hike and picnic.

"The fact you can be yourself is very important," observed Francois Clemmons, who is well-known to TV viewers for his longtime role on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

Clemmons will host a broadcast available online and as part of a special drive-in triple feature at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, which will also highlight a wide range of performers.

Tickets for the drive-in triple feature can be purchased here.

Clemmons, who was closeted in the early days of the legendary PBS show but who's now openly gay, says he is often asked if Fred Rogers' lessons on kindness extended to LGBTQ+ people.

"I tell them all, 'Yes, God loves everybody. And Fred loved everybody,'" Clemmons said. "He never shunned anybody away because they were gay or trans or anything like that."

The Pride Center of Vermont said moving forward, even when gatherings are possible again, the lesson to the nonprofit organization from COVID-19 will be to continue virtual events to ensure more people can join in.

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