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Students at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School in Woodstock stage a large 'Pride Parade' to start summer

DAVID F. ASHTON - Members of the Bloco Alegria Band pose for THE BEE, moments before leading the Lewis School parade through Woodstock and back to the school. Following up on the success of their first such parade last June, Woodstock organizers decided to host the "Kids' Pride Parade" again this year on June 4 — starting out from Lewis Elementary School and ending back at the campus with a festival.

"This started last year — we decided that, with June coming up, we should hold a 'Pride Parade' because Lewis Elementary has many students and families which identify as 'queer', and we thought this community deserved to be celebrated," said organizer Jen Ortiz. "Even though we organized it in just three weeks, and with minimal advertising, we drew a crowd of a couple hundred — making the first year's parade a success.

"We saw clearly that this community wants to come together to celebrate our 'queer youth'," explained Ortiz. "This year, the Lewis Queer Student Association, the school's PTA, the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) group, and the Queer Students Allies & Parents, were all collaborating to make this event bigger and better."

Although rain showers swept across the area, they held off while the parade assembled on the Lewis Elementary School playground, which is also where a festival was set up. Students participated in craft activities, such as making personalized badges showing their support for the groups represented.

At 10:30 a.m., the parade stepped out, with the beat of the Bloco Alegria Band leading the way. It departed the north gate of the school's playground along S.E. Glenwood Street, north on 41st Avenue to Woodstock Boulevard, and then south, back to the school along Southeast 45th.

Without a Police Bureau escort, "Safety Team" members on bicycles helped guide the parade and to block streets while the procession passed by. Back at the school, the party continued as the rain began to fall.

"Bringing everybody together to a space of love and acceptance, where we can share our support, resources, and merriment, strengthens us as a community," commented Ortiz. "The community getting together to share love and hope is the best outcome we could hope for." Experience the sights and sounds of this parade, in this BEE video —

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