Six Fairhope residents voiced their opinions and concerns over the upcoming Color Fairhope with Pride Festival and Drag Bunch during the public participation portion of a Fairhope City Council …
Six Fairhope residents voiced their opinions and concerns over the upcoming Color Fairhope with Pride Festival and Drag Bunch during the public participation portion of a Fairhope City Council meeting May 22.
The Color Fairhope with Pride event started in 2021 with a sidewalk chalk event and evolved into a four-hour festival and drag brunch in 2022. Last year, festival organizers rented South Beach Park from the City of Fairhope to hold the festival. The space will once again be used for this year’s event.
The six residents who spoke out during the public participation portion of the city council meeting seemed to echo the same theme about protecting children from “adult-themed explicit content.”
Carol Wilson was the first to address council. She asked council to consider adding a vetting process to applications for a vendor to hold an event on city property and suggested the city add a rating system, like those used in the movie industry, to alert residents of the nature of an event. Wilson ended her comments with a request for council to require the event be moved off city property to a private venue “in order to protect any children or youth that may inadvertently attend the program.”
"The City does not really have a history other than allowing them to use the park for the past several years. Like everyone else who rents the park, they must complete the necessary paperwork and pay the fees. They have complied with our requirements. With any event hosted in Fairhope, public safety is always our top concern. We hope people will be respectful and act accordingly," Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan told Gulf Coast Media Friday.
Next to speak was Lou Campomenosi, president of the Common Sense Campaign TEA Party. His comments ranged from noting actions in the Alabama Legislature to the Common Sense Campaign's efforts in Baldwin County schools.
“We have this general community view that there is something wrong with 'woke.' I think that at this particular juncture with what Ms. Wilson just suggested to you, there needs to be some sort of an affirmation that children do not need to be exposed to this. Think about it,” Campomenosi said. “The schools are trying to keep it out, the legislature is trying to prevent kids from making mistakes, and the next thing you know we’ve got children being exposed to all this woke material in a festival. How do you balance the right of festival goers with our community values?”
Council members sat quietly and let the residents express their concerns but did not comment on their suggestions or comments before adjourning the meeting.
The Color Fairhope with Pride event was created and hosted by Prism United and Prism United Fairhope. Sarah Fischer, site director for the group and one of the event's organizers, said last year’s event went well despite record-breaking heat. An estimated 300 to 500 people, ranging from families with children to adults, attended.
Fischer said there were only two negative interactions.
“The only negative interaction we had during the festival last year was two women who separately came into the park. Each of them were going booth to booth talking to local business and organizations that were there to celebrate Pride, and they were saying things that were very inappropriate and explicit in nature about their belief regarding the LGBTQ community and families,” Fischer said. “A lot of these comments were not only making the people running the booths very uncomfortable and worried, but they were making these comments standing right next to families with small children. Some of our volunteers and organizers just very politely walked them out of the park and gave that information to the officer that was on duty in that area that day and parked right outside the festival. He was incredibly supportive and let us know we could provide that information to them and they would not be allowed back on the property that day or the following year, which is where we are now.”
When asked if the public comments made at the May 22 council meeting and more on social media have changed any plans, Fisher said no. Festival organizers have contracted off-duty police officers to provide security.
“Even before the people who attended the city council meeting and spoke off agenda during the community comment section made their comments," Fischer said, "we were already doing all we can to make sure our festival is a place where families and members of our community can gather in joy and safety and fun."