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Spencer Pride adjusting after Owen County board passes controversial ordinance

Posted at 11:57 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-04 10:24:09-05

SPENCER — Months after Spencer Pride had its best festival to date with around 5,000 people descending on the town of 2,000, it's back to the drawing board for Jonathan Balash and others after the Owen County Board of Commissioners passed a controversial special events ordinance.

"This is something that's not gonna keep us from thriving," Balash said. "We want to have a thriving downtown community, we love our downtown community. We don't want to move to the fairgrounds or go to some private venue elsewhere."

Balash said Spencer Pride has been celebrated in the town for the past 12 years, with the Owen County Courthouse being the center for the celebration.

"We love the visibility, specifically for our LGBTQ Pride festival, that comes with being downtown," he said.

However, the ordinance now closes off restrooms for Pride goers at the courthouse, and the same goes for anyone attending any other kind of large event at the courthouse square.

The ordinance also creates other issues if Spencer Pride decides to ask for permission to use the courthouse lawn, and Balash wants to avoid that headache altogether.

"We are going to be reserving multiple streets downtown. We're working with a lot of different downtown businesses to be more interactive and engaging," he said. "I feel like this is going to be the best Spencer Pride ever."

Jaime Sweany runs Juniper Gallery, which is right on the courthouse square. Her support for the Pride festival can be seen in her storefront window — a sign that dots several other storefronts and doors, as well.

"That's one of the things that's real exciting to me. I feel like the community has really talked and come together and said 'no, you're not stopping us. We're going forward and going to make this happen,'" Sweany said.

With all this new support, Balash wants everyone to know Spencer Pride 2020 is going to be bigger and better than it's ever been, allowing the true colors of his community to shine through.

"We've gotten a tremendous outpouring of support from individuals. We got new sponsor interests. We've got a lot of new people who said, they either didn't know about our festival or knew about and hasn't come yet," he said. "We want to show what our community is. It's a very warm, welcoming, loving place. All we have to do is give them the platform to do that and they absolutely do."

Click here to read a copy of the ordinance.