‘Friends around every corner’: New Milford pride picnic drew many

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

NEW MILFORD — About 100 people turned out Saturday afternoon to the green for the first-ever pride picnic in New Milford.

Rebecca Yarrish, a New Milford native who helped organize the event, said there isn’t a visible queer community in town, so it’s important events like these are held.

“We’re not Hartford, we’re not New Haven, where you can just take a bus to somewhere,” Yarrish said. “The goal is to make sure that everybody here — from the kids to the adults to someone whose just moved here — knows that we are here, that our town is welcoming, that there is a community here.”

Games included a beanbag toss and an opportunity to take a photo inside a rainbow-colored frame. There was also music and many people picnicked and socialized with friends.

She added she hopes there are other events that are welcoming to the pride community in the future.

She is involved with a new group called Southern Litchfield Pride, and is helping plan the group’s first get-together on July 10.

“We will learn what the community wants, whether it’s support, social activities, or both,” she said. “A lot of times, stuff that is aimed at the queer community is really aimed at our struggle and not just aimed at being ourselves. There’s a lot of anti-queer legislation, there’s a lot of anti-trans legislation. There’s a lot of stress of, ‘Am I allowed to use the bathroom that I need to use in any given place?’ And sometimes, it’s refreshing to just go to a place and be yourself with people who know the terminology and know the struggle and you don’t have to do that translating of experience but also people do need support in just knowing that there’s people beside them.”

Pride flags and rainbow-colored candy were also seen around the green.

Dez Volnixshin of New Milford said they hope it will be more than an annual event. “We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it. We’re not going to disappear after the end of June,” they said. “You have community. You have places you can be, you have friends around every corner.”

Volnixshin said the Litchfield Pride group formed out of the desire for the pride community close to home

“It’s never fun to be a member of this community and learn the closest place to find their community is an hour and a half away,” they added. “Not everyone is able to travel that far.”

Rev. Amy Carter, a new pastor at First Congregational Church of New Milford, said she loves the message of inclusion.

She added she would like to be a clergy voice so people know there is someone who affirms their lives and accepts them as they are. She said if someone is struggling within the Pride community and in any community, her voicemail at the church is confidential to messages.

“I would be happy to meet or talk with anyone from the community who has a need,” she said, adding she is also an officiant for joyous occasions.”

She added she is also available for weddings or baptisms “or to say farewell to a loved one.”

Kateland Kelly, a New Milford physician assistant and owner of The Write Assistant, created an initiative called “Find the Love Pride Rocks.”

She hid 10 rocks around the green are emboldened with flags representing the Queer culture. Participants can look for the rocks and claim a prize that was donated by local businesses.

The event was planned for June since June is designated as Pride Month, a month-long celebration of the LGBTQIA+ communities. It originally started as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City and has since spread across the country, promoting visibility and equality for the queer community. While places like Danbury, Ridgefield, Bethel, Norwalk, Hartford and others have established pride events or parades that take place every year, New Milford had not — until Saturday.