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Celebrating Vermont Pride: A State of Freedom and Unity

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 12, 2022

Celebrating Vermont Pride: A State of Freedom and Unity
  (Source:Vermont Tourism)

It's fitting that a state whose very motto is "Freedom and Unity" would know how to do Pride right. "Having been to some giant Pride celebrations around the country, I can say we stand out as perhaps the largest grassroots celebration," says Justin Marsh (they/them), lead organizer and director of development and communications of the Pride Vermont Parade & Festival (September 9 - 18).

Marsh says that by "grassroots," they mean that until only a few years ago, Pride Vermont was entirely volunteer-run and powered without major corporation involvement, a quality that more and more Pride events across the country are moving to reclaim. "Even now," Marsh adds, "our Pride is run by the LGBTQ+ community center and operates on a very modest budget. That is reflected in the feel of our Pride — it's community-focused and truly about the celebration and the core of its meaning. Plus, Vermont is perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the country, and our Pride is celebrated on the Burlington Waterfront, overlooking Lake Champlain and New York's Adirondack Mountains — it doesn't get more picturesque than that."

Indeed, a trip to Vermont for Pride is worth it for the incredible beauty alone, not to mention the eclectic array of lodging, dining, and shopping options run by friendly LGBTQ and allied Vermonters.

Inns with Individuality



Adding a big dose of eclectic to the urban chic aesthetic, Made INN is a self-described "funky fun artsy intimate fabulous hip historic inn" set in a delightfully converted Victorian house at the heart of downtown Burlington.

About 15 minutes south of Burlington is the beautiful lakeside Inn at Shelburne Farms, a former private mansion set on a massive 1,400-acre working farm and sustainability education center. The Inn is open seasonally from May - October, with more than 10 miles of trails to walk and explore.

Mari Omland and Laura Olsen's Green Mountain Girls Farm in Northfield, Vermont offers visitors the chance to stay on a working farm in their barn guesthouse or farmhouse inn. Take a dip in the pond for a summer refresh or explore the woods by snowshoe come wintertime. And be sure to schedule a guided farm tour to meet your fellow guests!

Those seeking peace and privacy at a campground that cherishes natural beauty and actively works to preserve it will find themselves at home at Lake Champlain Adult Campground. The campground's 26 acres offer sites shaded by cedars, spots for tent camping, and a one-bedroom furnished cottage on the lakefront, all in a setting where couples without children are welcome, recycling and composting are routine, and nature is kept as pristine as possible.

Find more unique places to stay in Vermont.

A Taste of the Northeast



Just a block away from the Pride Vermont Parade kickoff point at Church Street Marketplace is the French fare of Leunig's Bistro & Café, one of the oldest continually operating restaurants in downtown Burlington, and solely owned by out lesbian Donnell Collins.

A block and a half south is El Gato Cantina, serving authentic Mexican dishes and appetizers made from traditional family recipes. If it's happening while you're in town, don't miss Chic Full Gay, the queer pop-up answer to Chick-fil-A that happens twice a month at St. Paul Street Gastrogrub, where creator Bryan Gildersleeve is the chef.

Up in South Hero (about 20 miles north of Burlington on Grand Isle, the biggest island in Lake Champlain) is the intimate Blue Paddle Bistro, co-owned by couple turned business partners Phoebe Bright and Mandy Hotchkiss. While on the islands, head for Snow Farm Vineyard for locally made wine tastings. On Thursday nights, the winery hosts live music among the grapes grown onsite.

Bring Vermont Home

(Source: Vermont Tourism)

No visit to Burlington would be complete without stopping by Church Street Marketplace, which USA Today has dubbed the "best public square in the U.S." The array of shops —†many of them reachable only by foot because vehicular traffic is limited to the cross-streets — offers everything from national brands like Banana Republic and Urban Outfitters to shops celebrating the culture and identity of Vermont, such as the Vermont Flannel Company, Kiss the Cook, and Outdoor Gear Exchange. Truly local stores include Tradewind Imports, Quarterstaff Games, and Crow Book Shop.

While you're there, you can find that special exotic gift — and learn more about fair trade principles while you're at it — at the Peace & Justice Store. The selections are the work of local Vermont artisans, but the store also represents more than 60 artisan groups from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. By shopping here locally, you truly do support a global mission: The Peace and Justice Center addresses issues of racial and economic justice, peace, and human rights.

But it's not all shopping: Church Street is also a nexus of community events, from the yearly July Fourth celebrations to the Ben & Jerry's sponsored "Music on the Bricks" music festival and city's famed Jazz Festival, plus arts festivals, book festivals, and more... lots more! Church Street is home to more than thirty events each year.

In partnership with the Pride Center of Vermont, the Vermont Folk Life Center features "Pride 1983," a physical and online exhibit running through September that "explores the origin and lasting legacy of Burlington, Vermont's first Pride celebration on June 25, 1983" through documentation that includes "archival documents and ephemera, audio interviews and photographs".

Up in South Hero, Champlain Islands Candy Lab specializes in handmade chocolate, gelato, crepes, baked goods, and specialty coffees and beverages. It is owned by married couple Albert Reyes-McCarver and Michael McCarver-Reyes.

Small Town, Big Pride

(Source: Vermont Tourism)

Kicking off Pride weekend, Friday's big Pride Ball dance party returns this year to Higher Ground in Burlington on September 16, with Pride Vermont Parade following on September 18 and commencing as usual at Church Street Marketplace. The Sunday afternoon Pride Vermont Festival follows at Burlington's Battery Park.

Round out your Vermont Pride experience with the community's ongoing events. Pride Hikes heads to Arms Forest near the shore of Lake Champlain on Saturday, Sept. 10, for a two-hour jaunt through the woods.

Yoga enthusiasts can join in on the LGBTQIA2S+ Ally Gentle Flow Class at Sangha Studio Tuesday morning, Sept. 13, starting at 7 am and lasting for one hour. Attend in person, or join in online.

For more Pride Center events, see the Pride Center calendar.

Want more Vermont travel ideas? Check out our Rainbow Road Trip: The Ultimate Green Mountain Adventure and explore VermontVacation.com.

Dan Allen covers travel and LGBTQ culture for numerous outlets around the world including NBC Out, CBS Watch!, the Los Angeles Blade, Passport and Fodor's.