Staff photos by Lynne Hermanson
Special to The Gardner News
The first Gardner Pride Parade and Potluck was held June 26 at Cornerstone Park in downtown Gardner.
Close to 200 people walked from Cornerstone Park down Moonlight to the old Price Chopper parking lot and back starting at 10 a.m.
Families carried flags and laughed and embraced, passing cars honked, bystanders waved, thumbs ups and clapping.
The mostly peaceful event only experienced one truck that drove by taunting parade walkers, but they drove off without causing a huge scene.
Jacob Jones, an organizer, said they chose Gardner because Johnson County has a huge Republican stronghold. “We wanted to shake up the town,” he said.
Jones said they wanted to teach children tolerance, especially for future generations. “Things are changing and we need to teach more acceptance,” he said.
Jones started a Facebook post in the Citizens of Gardner group page spearheading the idea for Gardner’s first Pride Parade and Potluck to celebrate Pride Month. “This is proof right here that good things do happen from social media,” he said.
Jones said he hopes to see a bigger event next year at Cornerstone Park, and they anticipate this to be an annual event for years to come.
Organizers said they never expected it to take off the way it did, and they were astounded by the number of people that attended.
Organizers said they believed in the need for the event after several Johnson County cities, including Gardner, didn’t make a proclamation for the month of June as Pride Month.
Jae Moyer, who is running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, said Gardner was getting there but there was still a lot of work to do.
City hall wouldn’t bring recognition to Pride, so we brought Pride to city hall, organizers said.
Moyer said they are gender non-binary and prefer to be recognized as “they” or “them.” They platform for JCCC Board of Trustees focuses on equality, opportunities and safe spaces for all students, lowering the cost of education and the potential to offer four year bachelor degrees to students who seek it.
Moyer said they grew up in Shawnee, moved away and when they first moved back to Kansas it was still legal to fire someone for being gay, but Gardner is still one of the only cities in Johnson County that doesn’t have a non-discriminatory ordinance.
“It’s now illegal nationally,” they said.
Cammie McIver, participant, said she had heard organizers needed help from the Citizens of Gardner page and had helped organize other Pride events in the past including Salina when she was part of their planning commission.
She said Kansas City usually holds a three day event but wasn’t this year. “KC’s Pride event is probably why Johnson County never has one,” she said.
McIver said the lack of a Pride event this year was a great motivator, and she worked with her employer to help sponsor the event.
Tory Roberts, Gardner mayoral candidate and council member, also attended.
Brandon Woodard, Kansas State Representative, was one of several speakers who addressed the crowd. “It’s exciting to be here,” he said.
Woodard said he hadn’t been to Gardner in a few years. “I didn’t expect to see a rainbow parade walking down Main Street,” he said.
Woodard said he was one of the first openly LBGTQ members in the Kansas House of Representatives. “I’m here because of the work done by generations before us,” he said.
Woodard said representation matters and there is a time and place for civility but the time for rising up was now. “There is hope for Kansas,” he said.
Chris Morrow, former mayor, said Gardner doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance and people should elect people who are going to represent everyone not just their constituents.
Taryn Jones, Equality Kansas acting chair, said the first Pride started from the Stonewall Riots. “We will continue to fight today—not by riot but political action,” she said. “Elected officials work for us not the other way around.”
Stacey Coleman, organizer and USD 231 candidae, said she wanted people to know Gardner is a welcoming community. “You love someone who is gay whether you know it or not,” she said.