WINDHAM — It was an afternoon of showing pride.
And also acceptance, love, friendship and community.
The first Pride Festival in Windham filled the back lawn at the Searles School and Chapel last Saturday, joining local vendors, organizations, and supporters together for an event filled with music, stories, food, education, raffles and community spirit for all ages.
The festival was hosted by Windham Citizens for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, a progressive organization formed in 2020 following a Black Lives Matter rally held in the community, with supporters hoping to keep the momentum going to encourage awareness for inclusion and acceptance through service and education.
Emceed by Windham native Sam Cohen, the afternoon’s performance schedule included music by the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus, a self-defense presentation by Professional Martial Arts Academy, a singalong with Granite State Music Therapy, and a drag story time presented by Michael McMahon performing as Clara Divine.
"We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support today," said Jackey Bennett, co-chairman of Windham DEI. "Hearing positive feedback and personal stories made us realize how truly important this day was for our community. It was an honor to create a safe and affirming space for so many."
Bennett hopes it will become an annual event.
Festival organizer Stephanie Lohret said bringing the festival to Windham was an effort among many who said this type of event was ready for Windham — and Windham was ready as well.
“The support we got from the community was incredible” Lohret said. “This town was more than ready.”
Lohret added the afternoon’s energy was great.
“It’s just love and acceptance,” she said.
Steven Lawlor-Jones said the day showed how much Windham supports diversity.
“In a town with less than 15,000, this is extraordinary,” he said. “These people are a powerhouse and it’s only growing.”