MILTON — Rainbow flags adorn countless homes and storefronts, as Milton is holding its LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations in June.
More than a hundred people turned up at Milton Theatre’s Pride Party at Inn the Doghouse on Tuesday evening, an event organized by theater director Fred Munzert.
Guests enjoyed LGBTQ-themed cocktails at the outdoor tiki bar — like the Marsha P. Martini named after Stonewall activist Marsha P. Johnson — and wore complimentary leis as they shopped at local vendor stands.
Mr. Munzert said Pride events are important to ensure that everyone, regardless of their identity, feels safe and welcomed in their own town.
“I think it’s really important that every person feel that they are safe and belong somewhere,” he said. “I know growing up in northern Delaware, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel like I could be who I was. And so it’s important to me that everybody, no matter what their background is, no matter where they are, no matter who they are and what they do, that there’s a place that’s safe.”
Mr. Munzert said most proceeds from Tuesday’s event, as well as other Milton Pride activities lined up throughout June, will benefit the Milton Theatre, which is a nonprofit organization. Milton Pride is also supported by several local sponsors, including Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Irish Eyes Restaurant & Pub, to name a few.
The theme this year is “Pride is Universal,” which Mr. Munzert said is about promoting universal love and acceptance for everyone.
“I feel like the world is moving towards a more integrated purpose,” he said. “It’s not so much about everyone being in their own groups, really. We find this is a coming-together.”
This event is one of the first Milton Pride events of many — including a drag show Friday, a Queen tribute performance Saturday and an ‘80s prom-inspired dance Sunday. There are also comedy shows planned, like with comedian Julia Scotti on June 18. People can purchase tickets for upcoming events here.
Milton Theatre was one of the first venues in the state to open under COVID-19 restrictions in June 2020, said John Paul Lacap, marketing director for the theater. Milton’s Pride events this month will take place largely without the past year’s COVID-19 restraints. Tuesday’s event was entirely outdoors and did not require guests to wear face masks.
Indoor events at the Milton Theatre will not require masks either, Mr. Munzert said.
Milton Pride is co-sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting inclusivity of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the community.
“We’re promoting the importance of Pride in our community here in lower Sussex County,” said Sal Seeley, health and wellness director for CAMP Rehoboth. “The great thing about events like this, even though it’s focused towards LGBTQ Pride, it’s so inclusive that it’s bringing all community members together and celebrating the best of the LGBTQ community.”
Milton Mayor Ted Kanakos said he attended the Tuesday event to show his support for Milton Pride.
“Anything that enhances diversity is important to the town,” Mayor Kanakos said. “It brings people together. It’s really terrific, especially after the past year. It brings the community together, both gay and straight.”
Milton Town Councilwoman Randi Meredith also said supporting LGBTQ Pride is very important to her.
“This is a beautiful thing. I find it very discouraging when people don’t understand why (Pride) is important because I find it’s so important,” she said. “I’m so glad that there’s so many people here showing support.”
Guests spoke highly of the diverse turnout at the event — neighbors gay and straight celebrating their love of Milton and its lively LGBTQ community.
“It’s nice to see the diversity of the crowd,” said Bob Paranzino of Millsboro. “A number of years ago, nobody would support something like this unless they were gay or lesbian. So it’s kind of neat to see people coming together and being supportive.”
Mr. Munzert shared a similar sentiment about the importance of acceptance in Milton.
“People who live in Milton, they’re very proud of the town. They love the town, and we want them to feel like Milton Pride is about living in Milton with all these other human beings,” he said. “To me, it’s not just a gay thing, and it never has been that. It really has been a human thing.”
Kevin Barry of New Castle said supporting LGBTQ visibility is essential, especially in small towns like Milton.
“Visibility is important, for sure, and that just isn’t always easy in small towns,” he said. “So we want to appreciate the community when they’re having events like this.”
Others expressed their delight to see Pride flags flying at many homes and businesses.
“I loved driving through tonight and seeing the rainbow flags everywhere. I feel like it’s such a beautiful, open and inclusive community, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Athena Allread of Lewes.
Milton’s Lauren Haggerty agreed.
“I saw something on Facebook that said, ‘I’m so tired of the glass ceiling.’ It’s like, OK, we’re only going to get Browner, queerer and more transgender. It’s going to change. It’s going to be all-inclusive,” said Ms. Haggerty, who owns Brain Love Neurotherapy in Rehoboth Beach. “I am done with the status quo.”
Mr. Munzert said that for Pride Months in future years, his goal is to establish the first Pride Parade in Milton’s history.
“We’re hopeful that next year, we’ll be able to have a parade. That’s kind of the goal, is to eventually have a parade,” he said. “I think it’s time. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really celebratory. We have all kinds of parades here in Milton, so we already have everything set up to be able to do it.”