Following Chambersburg Borough Council's repeal of the LGBTQ+ inclusive nodiscrimination ordinance, we're calling on supporters to show up to IceFest in rainbow apparel and to patronize ally businesses.
Area leaders, residents, businesses, and allies are rallying around the LGBTQ+ community to show support following the repeal of the LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance by Chambersburg Borough Council. As the region descends upon Chambersburg for its largest annual event, IceFest, supporters near and far are asked to demonstrate solidarity with LGBTQ+ residents by donning rainbow apparel and patronizing ally businesses. Volunteers will hand out rainbow masks and voter registration information on Saturday, the largest day of the festival.
“Our LGBTQ+ neighbors are deeply hurt after losing their rights and equal protections - protections they fought so hard to get in the first place. They need a visual show of support right now, and what better opportunity than at our community’s largest festival,” said Noel Purdy, president of Franklin County Coalition for Progress.
Just a few days ago, Chambersburg made state history as the first municipality to eliminate an LGBTQ+ inclusive law. The news of this injustice, and the hypocrisy of many council members, has been spreading internationally since. The Coalition, a local grassroots organization, has been leading advocacy efforts since discussion of a possible nondiscrimination ordinance started at council meetings in April 2021.
IceFest draws thousands of people from across the region to its town each year. The four-day winter festival, held from January 27-30, serves as an economic boon for local small businesses that rely on the event to draw crowds. It also serves as a significant fundraiser for three downtown organizations.
Throughout the four-day festival, the Coalition encourages residents and visitors to patronize businesses and support organizations who pledged to be inclusive to all. The Franklin County Welcoming Project was launched in June 2021 as an initiative to encourage businesses, health care/service providers, organizations, and congregations to display welcoming signs for the purpose of making LGBTQ+ individuals and allies feel welcomed as patrons. By signing a pledge, a participating business or organization receives a free decal for their entrances. The decal demonstrates the establishment as a diverse, inclusive, accepting, welcoming and safe space for all.
“While we understand the desire people have expressed to avoid visiting, shopping, dining, or doing business in Chambersburg, there are many LGBTQ+ locals who need to see that people support them,” said Nathan Strayer, co-chair of Pride Franklin County and a local business owner.
“There are also a number of small businesses who stand with us as allies. They provide members of the LGBTQ+ community with a safe space and assurance we will be accepted in their doors. We want to return the favor by patronizing their businesses throughout IceFest weekend,” Strayer continued.
Establishments that have signed the pledge are listed on Pride Franklin County’s website: www.pridefranklincounty.org/allies.
A few local businesses spoke at the borough council meeting on Monday in support of keeping the LGBTQ+ inclusive ordinance, citing the economic ramifications that are likely to happen with a reputation of being an unwelcoming town. Erin Miskell, one of the owners of Gearhouse Brewing Co., was one of those voices.
“In my statement to council Monday, I said we chose Chambersburg as the home for our business because we believe in this community. It’s even truer today than on Monday,” expressed Miskell. “Discrimination is unequivocally wrong and we, as an organization and community, stand against it. The actions of a few do not represent the whole of this wonderful town, but they sure do make clear how critical voting at the local level is. I believe Chambersburg will come through this stronger and more united, and I hope we stay laser-focused on using our votes to make our voices heard.”
In November 2021, less than 33% of registered voters in the Borough of Chambersburg turned out to cast votes for the local election. Out of the entire borough population of 21,903, 55% are registered to vote. This means only 18% of borough residents voted in November.
On Saturday, January 29, the most popular day of IceFest, volunteers will hand out free rainbow face masks and voter registration information. IceFest attendees are encouraged to wear rainbow apparel to the event - hats, scarves, T-shirts, etc. - in a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Coalition volunteers will have rainbow face masks and voter registration information available in front of Coyle Free Library, 102 N. Main St., from 10am to 2pm. Rainbow face masks will also be available to pick up all weekend at Falafel Shack, 9 N. Main St., while supplies last.
“While the NDO repeal was a huge step back in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, we also feel hopeful and comforted by the fact that there are many members of our community who are accepting and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Purdy.
On Saturday from 2pm to 4pm, Pride Franklin County volunteers will assist at the IceFest Ice Slide - as they have every year since founding in 2018. The LGBTQ+ community, allies, and anyone with an open mind and open heart are invited to visit the Ice Slide, located next to YP Jewelers on 133 S. Main St., during their volunteer shift.
“It's time we show up and show out. We need to be unapologetically ourselves and invite everyone into our world,” said Strayer.
While Borough Council has repealed the LGBTQ+ inclusive law, the Coalition will continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups through education and awareness. Since Monday's meeting, the Coalition has organized a mental health check-in for the rainbow community and strategized on ways the public can show support for Chambersburg's LGBTQ+ residents during IceFest and beyond.
The Coalition, a nonprofit run entirely by volunteers, is seeking more people interested in volunteering to help with future advocacy efforts.
“We will continue to call out injustices and raise our voices in pursuit of equity and inclusion," said Purdy. "If we want to make positive change, we have to keep holding elected officials and local leadership accountable. We invite you to stand in love with us and get involved in our pursuit of justice.”
Learn more at www.fccforprogress.org/protect-equal-rights. To get involved, sign up to receive coalition emails at the bottom of the website.
Mental health and other resources for the LGBTQ+ community are available at www.pridefranklincounty.org/lgbtq-resources.