The first-ever LGBTQ+ Festival in Pottsville was as fully attended on Saturday as the Governor allows right now.
Those 250 people who scattered around the Pottsville Lions Club Amphitheater dodged a few raindrops and saw a range of drag performances and speakers through the afternoon.
The festival was organized by Mikaela Gavaletz, of Pottsville, who only started on the project about 2 weeks ago. Through a locally viral social media following, Gavaletz was able to bring together performers and members of the local LGBTQ+ community in a short amount of time.
June is traditionally celebrated as LGBTQ Pride Month.
The event concludes a busy month of social justice activity in Schuylkill County.
First LGBTQ+ Festival in Pottsville Draws Capacity Crowd
Security working the gate at the amphitheater on Pottsville’s East Side assured us they were limiting the crowd to 250 people. And as The Canary left the area, another spectator was let in to the festival. (For the mask police: About half the people wore masks.)
Gavaletz appeared relieved the event went off without a hitch, saying “This is remarkable.”
She told The Canary it only took “very little sleep and a lot of phone calls” to pull the event together in 2 weeks.
But, Gavaletz says, it came with plenty of help. The performers basically came together on their own and hailed from areas surrounding Schuylkill County like Harrisburg, Allentown and communities in Berks and Lackawanna counties, too.
What surprised Gavaletz the most though, was the help from the City of Pottsville.
“City Hall jumped through hoops of fire to get this done,” she said. “Couldn’t have done it without them.”
Gavaletz personally thanked Pottsville Administrator Tom Palamar, who rallied the ranks of city employees, including members of the Streets Dept. and others, to get the amphitheater shipshape in time for the festival Saturday.
Gavaletz told The Canary that when she moved back to Schuylkill County after some time away, she wasn’t sure how her identity would be accepted back home.
There’s definitely a perception that Schuylkill County, as some kind of whole entity, is not open to any of the people included by Saturday’s festival. That’s definitely true of some people. To say that of the entire county, as if it were one person, however, seems unfair.
When you start looking, you eventually find a supportive community no matter what causes you support or lifestyle you live. That happened with this event. Gavaletz tells us she expected a big crowd once word started spreading.
It happened when she raised money with a Facebook fundraiser, too. It reached its $2,000 goal pretty quickly.
And Gavaletz tells The Canary that 90% of the money came from “allies” of the LGBTQ+ community. That means it came from people who support the cause, even if they’re not members of that community, per se.
“We’re talking about inclusion,” she said. “Let’s learn about each other.”