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  • Writer's pictureJared Cramer

Pride fest approved in Grand Haven, bucking Ottawa County trend

Below is an article by Lynne Moore in today's edition of MLive that references the ministries of our church.

A pride festival celebrating the LGBTQ+ community will be held for the first time in Grand Haven, a move that comes as far-right conservatism takes hold elsewhere in Ottawa County.

The June 10 Grand Haven Pride Festival at and near the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium was unanimously approved by the city council last week.

It’s the first year for the festival, which is sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Council member Ryan Cummins said it’s important for the city to be welcoming to everyone, especially in light of actions by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners.

“I think it’s important that we are truly welcoming for all – that all folks understand that they belong here,” Cummins said.

The Rev. Jared Cramer, priest at St. John’s, told the council that two years ago, when the church held its first pride worship service at the stadium, the church expected 30 to 40 attendees. Instead, nearly 200 showed up, he said.

“We realized it needed to be something bigger than just something my church does,” Cramer told the city council.

The festival will include entertainment at the stadium, a fenced area for alcohol consumption that also will be served by food trucks and vendors located in the marina parking lot. An adjacent grassy area will include up to 22 tents for an ‘inclusive market.” There also will be children’s activities.

The pride worship service will be at 10 a.m. before the festival, Cramer said.

Organizers estimate 500 people will attend.

“I know it’s not for everyone,” Cramer said. “That’s what I love about Grand Haven: There’s space for everyone here. If pride’s not their thing they can just not go to the festival that day. That’s OK.

“But for those for whom it’s important, we’ll demonstrate that truly all people belong in the City of Grand Haven.”

Grand Haven City Council Member Mike Fritz said the city has made strides in the past decade toward being a “welcoming spot for anybody.”

“It doesn’t matter what race you are or what your beliefs are or anything,” Fritz said. “There is just so much happening in Grand Haven that we open the doors up and say, ‘You are welcome. Please come to Grand Haven. Make yourself comfortable here.’

“We don’t want to step backwards,” Fritz said.

Several members of the audience spoke about the festival, some in favor of it and some opposed.

“Our city thrives when we come together to create social spaces to foster a healthy community,” Annie Baker, representing the city’s human relations commission, told council members.

Resident Deb Rymal told the council she believes there are 3,000 times more instances of spousal abuse in homosexual relationships and that cancer-causing chemicals used during transgender surgeries mean those who “are transgendering will die of cancer.”

She said she has seen “devastation” among family member and friends who “have chosen that lifestyle.”

“So, as an analogy, I’m not for a crooked lawyer or politician,” Rymal said. “But they’re not parading in the street telling me I should be for them.”

Resident Joan Held warned the council about business boycotts if they go forward with the pride festival.

“I think backlash is a word that we’re going to hear more and more in the news about various things,” Held said. “I’m already hearing people in the community talk about not taking their business downtown if you go forward with (the festival).”

Last November’s election saw several new members elected to the Ottawa County board and local school boards who are a part of the conservative Ottawa Impact movement. They campaigned on frustrations over such social issues as diversity, equity and inclusion.

Among the newly elected county board’s first actions were closing the county’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and changing the county’s motto from “Where You Belong” to “Where Freedom Rings.”

In Ottawa County’s Jamestown Township, voters last year effectively defunded the Patmos Library amid a campaign against a LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) books and others with sexual content accessible in the library’s young adult section.

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