WINCHESTER — Fifty years after New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn to arrest gay bar patrons, Winchester’s first openly gay mayor welcomed hundreds of loud and proud celebrants to the city’s second Pride Celebration.

“If you were to ask me 10 years ago if I would ever be mayor, I would have said, ‘No.’ If you were to ask me if there would be a Pride festival here in Winchester, I would have said, ‘No way.’ Now we’ve got both,” Mayor David Smith said on Saturday from a podium on the front porch of the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum on the Loudoun Street Mall. “Winchester has become the most diversified community in the Shenandoah Valley and I’m proud to be its mayor.”

Pride celebrations began in 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 28-29, 1969. It was the first time in the United States that gays, lesbians, transgender people and drag queens stood up to authorities who sought to oppress them because of their sexual orientation.

A half-century later, Pride festivities are held nationwide every June, in major cities and small communities.

“We still have such a long way to go when someone can marry their partner on Saturday and be fired from their job or denied housing on Monday because of who they are and who they love,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, one of nine guest speakers at Saturday’s event.

Victoria Kidd, co-owner of the Hideaway Cafe at 141 S. Loudoun St., showed off a framed document from Smith that proclaims June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in Winchester.

Kidd said the proclamation will be displayed in several downtown businesses, including Hideaway Cafe.

“You can go take a picture with it and say, ‘This is my town and I’m proud to live here,’” she said.

Married partners Eric and Mark Wingear, who grew up in the 1980s, said they never doubted that society would eventually become accepting of the LGBT community.

“The world is so divided right now, I think everyone in the country is looking to embrace love,” said Mark Wingear, who lives with his husband in Stephens City.

On the other hand, friends Rosemary Wallis and Sarah Burns, both of Martinsburg, W.Va., said they are shocked by America’s growing acceptance of non-traditional relationships.

“I didn’t think that gay rights would ever get this far, and I didn’t think that gay marriage would be legalized in my lifetime,” said Wallis, who is bisexual. “I didn’t think I would be able to come out like this and feel safe.”

“To have Pride celebrations everywhere, and being out in the open all the time, is pretty fantastic,” said Burns, who described herself as pansexual. “Everybody’s accepted, no matter what.”

The highlight of Saturday’s five-hour Winchester Pride Celebration was a series of drag shows that were staged between speakers. The lawn in front of the Civil War museum quickly filled with cheering spectators each time a drag queen danced and lip-synced to popular songs by artists who support gay rights, including Lady Gaga, Cyndi Lauper, Rhianna and Whitney Houston.

“I’m just going to say, you all know how to throw a party here,” Wexton said with a smile.

Alexa Shontelle, who held the title of Miss Winchester Pride last year, showed off her sparkly blue outfit that she made the night before.

“Might I say, baby, I look good,” Shontelle said.

Miss Winchester Pride 2019, Stephanie Michaels, wowed the crowd in an outfit that melded the American flag with the rainbow flag.

Winchester is finally starting to come around,” the 58-year-old said. “There’s a lot of acceptance, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Michaels closed out the day by performing “The Day After That,” a song Liza Minnelli sang on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

More than 500 people crowded onto the museum’s lawn, many wiping away tears as Michaels walked gracefully into the crowd and mouthed the lyrics written by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

“Someday we’ll be free, I promise you we’ll be free, if not tomorrow, then the day after that.”

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(61) comments

Cleo

Thank you Winchester Pride for a lovely day had by all who attended. Everyone I saw had a smile on their face and we enjoyed all the performances. See you next year.

Rattler

CRT. I never said I've seen this activity in Winchester or anywhere else. I know you can read. Please don't jump to conclusions. That spot is reserved for Spock. I know some beauty queens who are gay and have ridden a float. Never thought of shoving straight activity. Thanks for education and i dont mean this condescending.

Rattler

Crt. I wasnt talking about you misspelling. See i still dont spell correctly. I was trying to use my grandchildren as an example of children have outside issues where this kind of education can be very confusing. The education should be acceptance whether you agree or disagree. I do NOT akin the LGBTQ community to child molestation. Sorry guess my point was missed as usual

davism412

KUDOS, WINCHESTER! I am thrilled that Pride has come to our town. I went to last year’s festival by myself because I just had to be there to show my support. This year I brought a couple friends and it was even more fun! Nothing but love, acceptance, and support in the air—how could anyone see that as a negative? This year was bigger than last year, and hopefully we’ll keep on growing. I will go to Pride every year to show that I may be straight, but I don’t hate!

Spock Here

A lot of angry homophobes here. Think on this: You know at least one gay person. You might even love someone who is gay. A gay person has fought in a war for you. A gay doctor may save your life someday. A gay researcher may discover the cure for cancer. A gay dentist may clean your teeth. One day you may be having a seizure and your tongue will fold back. You might just thank the gay person who forces his fingers behind your tongue to stop you from dying. Yes, a "fruitcake" who is "perverse" and "perverted", out of the "closet" may actually be doing great good in the world. Such silly people to condemn them

Rattler

Spock.. not homophobic. Just dont want shoved down my throat. I agree with what you said

CRT

Do you think straight couples walking down the street hand in hand or kissing are shoving something down your throat? Do beauty queens in parades make your throat feel full?

Spock Here

"Christianity is the one true faith" is overly shoveled

Rattler

If a couple whether gay, straight, black,white,mixed want to hold hands or ashare a kiss go for it. Just dont make out or make a scene. Beauty queens making my throat full??. You have truly fallen to the ground

CRT

You talk about people ramming things down your throat. I take it you think the drag queens are doing some of the shoving. I was asking if seeing beauty queens on a parade float is shoving straight activity down your throat. And really, you've seen gay people making a scene in public by making out in Winchester? Where?

Mr Incredible

"A gay person has fought in a war for you. A gay doctor may save your life someday. A gay researcher may discover the cure for cancer. A gay dentist may clean your teeth. One day you may be having a seizure and your tongue will fold back. You might just thank the gay person who forces his fingers behind your tongue to stop you from dying. " There's an even better chance that person was never born because they were aborted.

Spock Here

If they weren't born, they didn't do that stuff. But, I see....Let's denigrate living, breathing, grown human beings while defending something that is not. Ahhhh the sanctity of life for the faux pro life evilgelical

ShruggingAtlas

Replace the word "gay" with "sinful" and you have it right. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The difference being you are not doing anyone favors by telling them their sin is good when it's not. Furthermore, the behavior itself is outside of the natural order, it is the inverse of what sex is supposed to be about, and does nothing to promote the social order. Loving your neighbor requires us to be honest, to help those in need, even when they fight you tooth and nail defending their disordered, destructive behavior. Whether it be drugs, sex, or other worldly addictions, they are not good for you, those around you, or your soul.

Spock Here

Yeh ok, you need a therapist to help you sort out your goonies.

ShruggingAtlas

Oh wow, is that your official diagnosis, Mr. "I don't like your opinion and I can't argue against it, so I'm just going to act like a 4th grader"?

Spock Here

We all have an opinion, I personally don't care to agree with the opinions of supposed "christians" deciding they have to judge others and pronounce a verdict. Yes, therapy is in order for many of us. It's healthy and makes you think. Try it.

ShruggingAtlas

I didn't judge a single person, just the action. We all can be saved if we stop pretending that sinful, destructive behavior is somehow "good" and that it should be tolerated. You obviously don't know many Christians since you have such a warped view of them.

CRT

Why don't you mind the plank in your own eye before commenting on the speck in another's. You think you have all the answers, but your set of beliefs aren't necessarily true. You might want to check your arrogance. You are free to believe the way you choose as are others.

ShruggingAtlas

Oh, all of a sudden you want to use a Bible verse while justifying the very disordered actions that same book points out as being an abomination? How convenient! What "plank" are you referring to? Neither you or Spock have a foot to stand on regarding the acceptance of disordered and destructive behavior other than "muh feelings" and ad hominems. Yes, you are free to choose your behavior, but you will also suffer the consequences of that behavior, whether it be in this life or the after. I don't want Satan to claim another soul, how about you?

Spock Here

He must be awfully busy guarding those souls from satan. Overworked, I think. Plus protesting too much on a daily basis.

CRT

Do you eat shellfish? Wear clothes of mixed fibers? Have tattoos? Eat pork? All abominations according the Bible. I repeat, your set of beliefs are not necessarily true. They are allegories, myths and legends from centuries ago.

cuphaus

If "Mr Incredible" would only take the time to do a simple Google search he would quickly realize that, no, "[m]ost of America" does NOT "still think the lifestyle is perverted." In fact, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) 69% of all Americans and even 56% of Republicans favor laws that protect the LGBT community. Kathy Uphaus

Mr Incredible

You are comparing apples and oranges. There's a big difference between people thinking a group should be protected by law and people thinking a lifestyle is perverted. PPRI ain't the most reliable of polling firms either. They got busted a few years ago stacking polls in pro illegal immigration manner. No real surprise tho since churches, especially Catholic Churches, are some of the biggest pro illegal entities out there.

Mr Incredible

There's a big difference in believing there should be laws to protect people and thinking their lifestyle is perverted. You're comparing apples and oranges

CRT

I think your lifestyle is perverted. All this judging!

Rattler

First off I have many gay friends. I don't have a problem with the LGBTQ community until it's forced down my throat. Alot of people in many do not agree with this perverse lifestyle. Quit trying to force children by teaching this lifestyle. It " offends " me. There are alot of things in community that offend others and their liberty is taken away. What was wrong with one parade now 2?? It's not my job to judge, one day they will meet their maker and real judgement will happen. Guess we will know real answer when we meet again

slowe

Rattler: " until it's forced down my throat. Alot of people in many do not agree with this perverse lifestyle. Quit trying to force children by teaching this lifestyle" Being gay cannot be taught any more than you can teach someone to change their eye or hair color! We need to teach children in sex education or just in socialization, that there are different sexual orientations, that they are rare but normal or natural for some of the population. That you cannot change one's sexual orientation and we should not reject those who are different in this way from most of the population. You call it a "perverse" lifestyle. This is a judgment based on bigotry and ignorance about sexual orientation. It is different, but it is not "perferse". Who and how is the LGBTQ community forcing anything down your throat? No one is requiring that you be or act gay, or marry or even befriend a gay person. Allowing gays to have rights that you enjoy is not forcing anything down anybody's throat. rights like: to rent an apt., to keep a job, to be served at a restaurant, to buy stuff at a store, to be with whom they want, to hold hands, to get married. Not You, or anyone else is being "forced" in any way. You seem to be offended that we exist and demand to be treated no differently that you are in society. Forced! indeed. How do you feel "forced"?

Rattler

I do not personally have a problem with you being gay. What i have a problem with is using the state and federal government to promote your agenda. As far as schools. There was a week of sex education. No permission slips were sent home giving consent for any child to attend this class. Yes it's still a problem for some patents. I let my children attend so we could have a discussion at HOME. Now, on to grandchildren.. 4 young ladies sexually abused bt stepfather and yes he got on stand and told judge what he did. Ages 3,5 7,8. He served a whole three years. Back to original post. They went to this weekly class. Every day yhey were something different. Today I'm gay, no I'm bisexual, no I'm really a boy. Post school discussion brought out they didn't even know what being gay meant. But that day they were gay., etc. I'm happy to say they have all graduated and live fufilled happy lives. Sexual orientation does not matter I dont care if my doctor, etc. Is gay, but why do you have to tell me, be flamboyant about. This has nothing to do with your competence as a physician. Again, I may not agree with your lifestyle, buts it's time to accept everyone for who they are. Agree to disagree wouldn't this world be boring if everyone is alike and all have same views. I dont go around looking for gay people just to tell them they are perverts. Again it's not my job to judge but I can voice my opinion also. Just be yourself. If you choose tbis lifestyle so be it. I choose blonde hair blue eyed men. Does that make me a bigot. No. Doing obstetric ultrasound for 40+ years i have done many surrogates for gay men. When the men were there did I treat them differently? No. They got the same professionalism as straight patients.. I vould go on, but I know this will be called a " senseless rant".

Spock Here

It started being senseless when you brought up the "agenda" topic. But, to answer your question you are not a bigot if you choose blonde hair blue eyed men.[innocent]

CRT

So it's a choice, Rattler? You are s#xually attracted to men and women, but choose to have s#x with men? When did you make that choice? So if a straight doctor tells you about his or her family, that's a turn off to you? Your story about the abuse of your grandchildren is a disturbing non sequitur.

Spock Here

It is not a non sequitur if you remember that these 'phobes think being gay is akin to child molestation

Conservative

People feel forced because businesses are REQUIRED by law to serve everyone, but that law is not equally enforced. Case in point...the bakery owners who wouldn't make a cake for a gay wedding get raked over the coals, yet restaurants who have employees who spit on and refuse to serve Conservatives are held up as honorable. Until the nonsense stops, nothing is going to change.

Spock Here

The restaurant was wrong, I think. to refuse to serve the press liar. But, please, do not do a disservice to patriotic conservatives by calling her one. She's a complicit cultist

Conservative

Spock, your hatred and bigotry against those who do not think as you is very alarming.

Mr Incredible

The Red Hen comes to mind

Spock Here

Cults alarm me Conservative. There's never a happy ending with them. I don't think that it's hatred or bigotry, just sadness for when the realization that one has been conned by that man.....conned by such a stupid person as our prop in chief...not even by a smart person. SAD

CRT

Do you tell your gay friends you think they are perverse? Why in the world would they be friends with you? The old "force down my throat" response. What next, the "Adam and Steve" cliche? Whose liberty is taken away. Cite an example, please. One parade, now 2? We have an Apple Blossom parade every year. Do you disagree with that as well? Force children to do what?

Mr Incredible

Bake me a cake or I'll use the Federal Government to put you out of business. Ring a bell?

CRT

It's not the federal government. It's state and local anti-discrimination laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Rattler

Actually I dont snd have never gone to Apple Blosson. A bunch of hoopla for the wealthier of our society, who cares. Yes my gay friends know I don't like their lifestyle but unlike you we can look past it and be friends. As far as dchool, teach people ate different in many ways and bullying will not be tolerated. Why do we have to go onto the nitty gritty of LGBTQ. Can you tell me which gene carries the homosexuality?. Not one there not " born " that way. You may make that choice but what happened to patents teaching their children at home. School is supposed to be teaching reading,riting,rithmatic. Keep your lifestyle at home. No place for specifics in school It offends me just like it offends atheists when we prayed. That right has been taken away. It is only ok when it suits you. Thays called prejudice and not even race telayed. PS. you too mispell See no one is perfect!

CRT

You misspelled the word "mispell"! That's hilarious! Tell me, which word do you think I misspelled?

jwbbud

Much like religion? Now you know house non religious folks feel

slowe

Congratulations Winchester and Frederick County for finally having a Gay Pride event. I grew up there BEFORE such a thing was even conceivable. I was a teen in the 60s. My life would have been better had there been such acceptance ( though it is not completely acceptable still, per the comments to this article!) . Today's youth and the not-so-young are supported and encouraged to be authentic and true to themselves by your OUTness. I want the homophobes to remember that not all of us are drag queens or flamboyant. Some of us look and act just like you - you would never know we were gay. We are your cousins, classmates, and colleagues at work. We are your nurses, teachers, and waiters. We are everywhere. No closets, no more.

Janet

Why would Joe and Jake's comments be posted? Take a look at your "welcome to the discussion" rules "Be Nice". It is too bad there are people who still have these hateful thoughts.

Mark Anderson

It must kill you guys that people are out there doing things you don't approve of. The country is changing for the better, your ideas are old relics of a much worse America, and you are now solidly in the small minority. Victory for LGBT rights and equality has been declared.

Mr Incredible

You only think that because the media promotes your deviancy. Even the Star has fallen into the spell. And you know what the problem for the gay community is these days? You fail to realize that no one really cares, until you throw the perversion into everyone's faces. Believe me, in non PC circles, the lifestyle is still considered sick, it's just that a lot of people are afraid to say that these days. But honestly, no one would care if you would just keep it to yourselves. It's when you go parading in public like the fruitcake on the Courthouse steps or worse yet, try to get into the schools to tell the kids the lifestyle is "normal" when it clearly is not, is when people get fired up. Maybe it's time to figure that out.

CRT

Oh relax, honey. No one is trying to turn you gay. Baby they were born this way. Your homophobic bigotry is a lifestyle choice.

Mr Incredible

So is being gay. You may or may not have been born that way, but you do choose how to act.

anon

To Mr. Incredible - As an atheist / agnostic I would like to take your comments and apply the same rule to all of the over the top religions community. I wish they would quit "parading" around explaining how I am going to heck. Quit praying for me and our kids. I the religious community would stay out of the public and out of the government. Do you think this expectation is fair? Do you think it is possible for me to get my wish. It is selfish for me to expect it nor would I ever expect it. Please try to be a better person.

Doug

anon, move to a country that wasn't built with God, Christ and Christianity in it's DNA and that would be a reasonable request. When atheists form a country on the pillars of their own beliefs, or lack thereof, it will be a reasonable request to ask Christians, or any other religious person, to not try expunge such nonbelief and replace it with religion. And to get ahead of it, no I don't really reject you, your beliefs, think you should be deported, or suffer any type of harassment or harm for your beliefs. Your, nor anyone else's, intrinsic value as a human being is not degraded by a failure to share the same beliefs. The real problem, is that no one likes to have opposing views put on display in front of them, and when a show is made of that which one disagrees with, it's a normal reaction to reject it. If people are by nature/choose to be LGBTQ, so be it, do your thing and leave other people alone and 99% won't care. There are people on both sides (religious extremists and those they condemn) that take it to the extreme and feel the need to be flamboyant, whether it's standing on a soapbox preaching damnation of the wicked sinners, or the courthouse steps in an extravagant get up designed to draw attention to your lifestyle, at that point you are not just doing your own thing, you're "shoving it down the throats" as has been said, of the other side.

Don Specht

Nothing like being homophobic and anonymous. I guess that passes for normal now. Maybe it's time to figure that out.

slowe

" tell the kids the lifestyle is "normal" . Gays number less than 5% of the population. We are born this way, it is not a choice. Making gay "normal" or acceptable will not create more gay people! It will only allow that 5% to live a normal life - just like you do. You needn't fear or avoid gay folks. They do not, and cannot, make you or anyone else gay. We do you no harm, yet you harm us by denying us our equal status and inclusion in our common society. Relax.

Joe Crane

Winchester is not embracing equality, it's promoting perversion.

CRT

Nah, having a thrice married serial adulterer and sexual assaulter in the White House is promoting perversion. Drag is just fun!

ShruggingAtlas

Yes, Trump is certainly guilty of being an unfaithful husband, but calling him a "sex assaulter" without evidence other than accusations is getting rather old. You know, your boy Bill Clinton got a BJ in the White House from an intern (among other accusations of infidelity), but I don't see you clutching your pearls over that behavior. Plus, his wife, who you most likely voted for in the most recent presidential election, went after her husbands accusers, but I guess they are actually victims since all they need to is accuse someone you don't like before they're actually guilty of something.

jake277

You all need to go back in the closet like it used to be!!! Flat out!!

CRT

Why? Are we not a free country? Or do only people who act, look and think like YOU get freedom?

Mr Incredible

You have just as many rights as everyone else. The problem is that now that you've achieved that, you demand acceptance. BAKE ME A CAKE OR I'll USE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO FORCE YOU OUT OF BUSINESS. Sound familiar? You will never gain acceptance with normal people because that demands that you force people to think differently, and that ain't gonna happen. Most of America still thinks the lifestyle is perverted.

Don Specht

" Most of America still thinks the lifestyle is perverted." Post proof.

CRT

I'm relatively normal, and I accept gay people. The mall was full of straight families on Saturday. All accepting. Yes, if you're a business open to the public and the law includes sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination laws, you better be prepared to bake that cake. Funny how the bakers who recoil at baking for gays have no problem with wedding cakes for those entering unions (second or subsequent marriages) that the Bible says are adulterous. Poll after poll shows most of America thinks being gay is just fine.

Don Specht

Wow. Another anonymous homophobe.

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