CONNEAUT LAKE — As a flotilla of President Donald Trump-supporting boaters circled the lake in watercraft of all shapes and sizes, a crowd of about 50 people gathered for a different purpose at Fireman’s Beach.
“Our goal is peace and love the whole time. We are not here to start (stuff), period,” Travis Smith said to the people around him, nearly all of them holding miniature flags with the familiar rainbow theme of LGBT pride. “We’re just going to have a really fun-loving beach day together.”
Smith organized the Northwest Pennsylvania Pride March and Family Beach Day as a “personal passion project.” The event was meant to follow the Trump Train Boat Parade, which the Crawford County Republican Party originally scheduled for Saturday.
Due to inclement weather, the two events ended up taking place at the same time — “which is great,” Smith said after the group made a short march to Ice House Park and back to Fireman’s Beach.
“I think it’s a good thing for people to see us all coexisting — as we should be able to — freely in America,” Smith said.
Linda Piccirillo of Carlton and her 11-year-old son, Grayson, attended the parade to show support for family members and friends among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“They’re still not guaranteed the rights that they should be, like everybody — everybody deserves the same rights,” Piccirillo said.
Another reason Piccirillo returned to her hometown for the march was to educate Grayson about equality.
As the group made its way under a bright sun to Ice House Park, Grayson said the march was “a little tiring,” but worth it.
Vehicles traveling on Water Street honked in support as the group circled around the park to head back to Fireman’s Beach. Alongside the water’s edge, two Trump supporters waiting for the boat parade to complete its circuit of the lake waved the stars and stripes and large Trump 2020 flags.
Back at the beach a few moments later, many of the marchers waved their Pride flags as Trump supporters passed by in their watercraft.
Smith was glad to see — and to be seen by — the other flag-waving group spending the day at the lake.
“I had at least a half-dozen people come up and express that they’re not out of the closet and still struggling with family members,” he explained, “but seeing something like this today was very helpful and encouraging.
“That’s exactly why I felt we needed to be out here today and be seen.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.