Jamie Taylor/river news
A Moment of Solitude
While the Northwoods Pride Festival at Nicolet Collegeís Lakeside Center Saturday, June 29 gave those in the LGBT community a chance to meet, network and socialize in an atmosphere of acceptance, some took a moment to walk out on the pier to admire the view.
7/2/2019 7:30:00 AM Nicolet student helps bring third annual
Northwoods Pride Festival to campus Haenel 'I think that people are seeing us more'
The idea of LGBT Pride, the celebration of embracing and accepting sexual orientations other than heterosexuality, is not new. Its roots go back 50 years to the Stonewall Uprising of June 28, 1969. From there it has grown to encompass the entire month of June, which is now known as Pride Month, with festivals and parades held across the country including Rhinelander.
The Northwoods Pride Festival, held Saturday at Nicolet College's Lakeside Center, was a chance for local LGBT persons to gather together with their allies and, as Faith Haenel, president of the Nicolet College Rainbow Hodags put it, "be colorful."
The Rainbow Hodags, the LGBT student organization at Nicolet, was one of sponsors of the festival, along with Northwest Pride, Rhinelander Honda, Associated Bank, and Northwoods Gardener. Previously the event has been held at Minocqua's Torpy Park, however an ongoing construction project there led to the move to Nicolet.
"We worked with Nicolet College, and they were super supportive," Haenel said. "They were like 'yeah, let's have it here. We'll do what we need to do, let's get the ball rolling.' They were really inclusive and really helpful and that's why we decided to have it here."
Terry Rutlin, communications specialist at Nicolet College, said the idea of having the festival at the Lakeside Center was a welcome idea when the Rainbow Hodags was brought to the administration.
"We are a college community and very open and accepting of everyone on campus," Rutlin said. "We're all human beings, and everyone is a little different and everybody is welcome on campus here."
"This is LGBT+, everyone plus allies," Haenel noted.
It was the number of allies, those who are not part of the LGBT community but support their movement to be treated equally with everyone else, who attended the event that surprised Haenel the most. In fact, the size of the crowd by the midway point of the event really humbled her.
"I thought that we would get maybe 150 (people), but they're saying close to 225 now and they're still coming in," Haenel said. "It's awesome and the drag show hasn't even started yet."
Another thing that surprised Haenel was the number of families with small children who came to the event.
"I love seeing all of the kids here, honestly," she said. "I'm really surprised that there are some families here and they brought their aunt or uncle, their kids and their grandchildren, the whole family. It's awesome, and it's something I don't see a lot of, that's for sure."
She said she thinks the acceptance that is rapidly growing for LGBT persons comes down to one thing.
"I think that people are seeing us more," Haenel said. "And they are being more accepting and inclusive."
Rutlin said it was interesting that the festival was held on the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, when a group of LGBT people fought back following a police raid at a popular New York City bar, The Stonewall Inn.
"I never really knew about the Stonewall Riots until we started planning this event," Rutlin said. "And that was 50 years ago, and you really got to think about how far the movement has come, and this is just one of many celebrations across the country."
Haenel noted the Rainbow Hodags have not had problems with the other students or student groups at Nicolet.
"There hasn't been anyone against us, honestly," she said. "But a lot of people (here) are a lot more open. They see us, but it's kind of like, 'oh, it's a club.' But that's what happens when you're in a commuter school, there's not a lot of clubs and we're like 'we're here!' And everyone else is 'you guys do what you want.'"
Saturday's festival featured booths representing upcoming events that are open to all, along with those aimed at showing LGBT individuals that they are welcome there. Various groups sold food, there was a silent auction, live music and a drag show featuring performers from across Wisconsin, including state competition titleholders, which nearly packed the Nicolet College Theatre.
As the show continued, a few young children, who appeared to be enthralled by the performers, were gently led on stage to view the pageantry of song and dance that is a drag show.
Haenel said she had a couple of takeaways that she hoped the non-LGBT community in the Northwoods would take away from the event.
"That we are here and just like everyone else, we are just a little more colorful," Haenel said. "We just want to be seen and we just want to be accepted. That's all. It's amazing that people are - and I don't want to say OK with it - but more accepting of us as equals. It's a hard world out there sometimes."
Jamie Taylor may be reached at jamie@ rivernewsonline.com.
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