Ridgefield’s ‘fun’ Pride in the Park to remind LGBTQ+ community ‘they are welcome and accepted’

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

From the age of 5, town resident Eva Trachtenberg said she has been advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community — raising awareness and educating others.

In middle school, she ran for and won the title of Ms. President US Ridgefield on an LGBTQ+ platform.

“I started the first GSA at Scott’s Ridge Middle School, called the Pride Club, which was part of the newly formed joint GSA (Genders and Sexualities Alliance) clubs of the Ridgefield Public Schools,” said Eva, now 16, who transitioned at age 6.

It was the GSA that first had the idea of holding a Pride in the Park celebration, and helped organize and run it, Eva said.

This Saturday will mark Ridgefield’s third CT Pride in the Park celebration. The free event, which will take place from noon to 3 p.m. in Ballard Park, begins with a parade around the park starting at 1 p.m.

Trachtenberg described the event as very “family oriented.”

Activities for children include bead stringing to make jewelry and plastic animals, a sandbox where children can hunt for toys, balloon and button making games, and face painting.

New this year will be a Rainbow Family Storytime and a poetry table with the town's poet laureate, Barb Jennes, who will read a poem and help others write poems.

There will also be a production by the Ridgefield Theater Barn, as well as a karate and yoga demonstration.

Eva’s mother, Ridgefield resident Alisa Trachtenberg, co-organizer of the event with town resident Maureen Tyra, said over 200 people participated in last year's Pride in the Park celebration.

“They came from across the state and New York State, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts,” she said.

The event is hosted through Ridgefield CT Pride, a nonprofit organization in town whose mission is to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, to educate, promote awareness, understanding, and acceptance of this community as well as to provide support for both LGBTQ+ individuals and their friends and family, according to its website.

Trachtenberg said many people have contacted her through Ridgefield Pride, seeking support.

“I get a lot of people reaching out nowadays because they have kids who are in the LGBTQ plus family, so I've been working over the years to hopefully make things better for other families going forward,” she said. “And it seems, from what I hear from people, that things are definitely improving and improved. So that's really encouraging. That was one of the main goals, from from my perspective.”

Events such as Pride in the Park lets people in the LGBTQ+ community know that they're valued as well, Trachtenberg said.

“That's really important, especially nowadays,” she added.

She referred to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, which says 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

Having one adult in one’s life who's supportive reduces the risk of suicide by 40 percent, according to the report.

“I mean, that's huge,” Trachtenberg said. “Our society needs to be more caring and inclusive overall.”

She added it’s important the community accepts those who are LGBTQ+.

"It’s important to let people know that they are people, just like everybody else,” she said, adding that with understanding, comes acceptance.

One way for the community to better understand LGBTQ+ individuals is by making efforts toward including them, she said.

She said her rabbi, David Reiner at Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties in Ridgefield, “on a regular basis incorporates messages of inclusion — not just for the LGBTQ plus community, but for the stranger or those who are different or for vulnerable communities.”

There is a Pride flag hanging at the synagogue, which is visible every day — “and not just during Pride Month,” she said.

She added being supportive and creating a supportive environment can actually “save lives.”

Toward that end, Ridgefield CT Pride runs a monthly support group for LGBTQ+ youth and a monthly support group for family members of LGBTQ+ individuals, and does outreach in the community.

Eva said it’s important to have Pride events in Ridgefield like Pride in the Park, “because it lets the LGBTQ plus people of the community know that they are welcome and accepted.”

She added not only is the Pride in the Park celebration “fun,” but it gives people “the opportunity to connect with each other.”

For a full schedule of Pride in the Park events, visit ridgefieldctpride.com or RidgefieldCTPride on Facebook. In the event of heavy rain, the celebration will be at Yanity Gym, 16 Prospect St. Ballard park is at 485 Main St.