Employees of Hannaford Bros. march Saturday during the Hallowell Pride 2023 parade, handing out goodies to the people gathered along Water Street. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — Despite the rain and the heavy, dark clouds that threatened to drop more, rainbows shone through this riverfront city as Hallowell Pride 2023 kicked off its annual celebration.

Kelly Allen wore her rainbow as a headdress as she stood on Water Street, waiting for the parade to start. Allen was joined by Darci Smith, whose rainbow colors were worn on her hat with the brim flipped up on one side.

Allen and Smith came to Hallowell on Saturday from Mount Vernon and Vassalboro take part in the whole event — the festival in Granite City Park, the parade, the live music and the drag show that would take place later, moved inside in deference to the weather.

The annual event draws people from around the region for the event put on by the Hallowell Pride Alliance, and some unseasonably cold weather didn’t deter people from stopping by for a good time.

Amy Barker offers free hugs to people Saturday during Hallowell Pride 2023 festivities. Barker says she looks after friends of her daughter in Boston who had been rejected when they came out to their families. “Everybody needs a mom,” she says. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

Just before the parade, Amy Barker, who traveled upriver from Dresden to Hallowell where she was joined for the first time by her niece Zoe Martel, had shed her jacket so everyone could see her T-shirt offering free mom hugs.

The offer is genuine and was reinforced by the sign she carried. “If your parents don’t accept you, I’ll be your Mama today! Wear your sunscreen, eat your veggies, and oh yeah… I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!! Love, Mom.”


The idea took root years ago, when Barker lived in Boston. Friends of her daughter were kicked out of their own homes when they came out to their families.

“I just sort of took them in and took care of them as best I could,” Barker said. “Everybody needs a good mom and  everybody needs to know they’re special and loved.”

Saturday’s rain and cool temperatures didn’t deter Kelly Allen, left, and Darci Smith from celebrating the Hallowell Pride 2023 festivities that included a festival, parade, live music and a drag show. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

By the start of the parade, she said, seven or eight people had taken her up on her offer. She has only that T-shirt, and when it wears out, she’ll find another one to wear to pride events.

June is Pride Month across the United States, commemorating the Stonewall uprising in 1969. On June 28, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, not for the first time. But that time, the patrons fought back and in the days that followed, protests continued. Those protests are considered a tipping point in the early fight for LGBT rights.

Wes Sproul has been coming to Hallowell Pride regularly, and he’s been doing so for years because he lives in Augusta and he wants to support the community in central Maine rather than traveling to Portland to spend money there.

Sproul had stopped for hot coffee before the parade to warm up, and afterward went down to the festival at the waterfront and bought some funky glasses and donated to a range of social service agencies that had set up booths.


“Hallowell is a quaint little town, it welcomes everybody and anybody and it’s a good way to show support for the community,” he said.

The weather did not deter people from taking part, and they started lining Water Street just before 2 p.m. for the parade, which included floats and marchers from a variety of organizations, including Gender/Sexuality Diversity Alliance groups from several schools and the Veterans Affairs Administration. State Sen. Craig Hickman, a Democrat from Winthrop who also represents Hallowell, was the parade’s grand marshal.

Allen and Smith, who came to spend the entire day, would recommend the event for anyone.

“Definitely come. It’s fun,” Allen said.

“It’s family friendly,” Smith said. “It definitely welcoming.”

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