Chill Out & Proud to hold inclusive downtown festival on October 5

Katherine Moses says the community event scheduled for October 5 in downtown Somerset will be similar what we're familiar with -- maybe just a little more blinged out.

"It will feel very much like a folk festival, not so different from other festivals our community has experienced," she said, "though perhaps with some glitter and rainbows tossed in for effect."

That's what people can expect from "Chill Out & Proud," which organizers describe as a safe, inclusive, laid-back, and family-friendly celebration, inspired by the local LGBTQ demographic and friends within this community.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is put on by Chill Out & Proud Somerset, a non-profit community collective.

"The idea stemmed from comments on the Commonwealth Journal's Facebook postings regarding the Fairness Ordinance," said Moses, one of the event's organizers. "Some expressed a desire for a public Pride event or a way to unify the community.

"Many of us felt the urge to get involved in fostering unity in the wake of, what felt like, a divide in our community and decided to have a meeting to discuss what an event like this could entail," she added. "One meeting turned into two, and here we are!"

The Saturday, October 5, event will start at 11 a.m. and go to about 6 p.m. on the judicial center plaza in downtown Somerset, and will feature morning yoga, a chili lunch (beef and vegetarian chili), live music, vendors, a local artist paint-off, and an expo featuring the SomerCity Roller Derby team.

Following that, a mixer and drag show is scheduled at Jarfly Brewing Co. from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.

"For those who have not attended a drag show previously, drag shows consist of lip synching and dancing performers who perform gender to its most dramatic and fabulous degree, often in colorful and flamboyant costumes, sometimes imitating famous personalities," said Moses. "It's guaranteed to have you dancing in your seat, fawning over wigs, and laughing till your cheeks hurt!"

Moses said that there are around 30 individuals involved in the core organizing of this event, and a variety of businesses, nonprofits, and volunteers who have shown their support in various ways.

Moses said that most of the feedback received about the event has been positive, with more than 300 people listed as interested in or attending the event on social media and a multitude of volunteers, vendors, and sponsors that have reached out asking how they can get involved.

"I did not know the extent of the LGBTQ+ community in Somerset nor did I realize the far-reaching desire to foster this type of unifying event across our community prior to the planning of this event," she said.

Pride events like this one allow members of the gay, lesbian, transgendered and other related communities an accepting space to be "authentically and vibrantly themselves" and works toward equality, visibility and unity, she said.

"In more rural areas, where LGBTQ+ individuals are not as visible, Pride serves as a reminder that we are not alone and are an accepted, welcomed part of a larger community," said Moses.

To learn more, visit chilloutandproud.org or "Chill Out and Proud Somerset" on Facebook.

Moses said that downtown businesses have partnered with Chill Out & Proud Somerset to create a "hop" environment -- as in "art hop," where people can go from one location to the next to find activities -- where attendees are encouraged to stroll downtown to check out murals and visit various businesses as they are hosting artistic events, open houses, and sales. There will be face-painting and bubbles for kids, as well as the opportunity for them to sabotage some of the artists as they paint.

"We really aimed to create an event where everyone could feel welcomed to chill out," said Moses, "and be proud that we were able to capture and showcase some of the individual and artistic diversity that downtown Somerset has to offer."

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