Abigail’s Pride: ‘Bigger, better and safer’

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Ortonville — During the regular meeting on March 25, the Ortonville village council denied the Abigail’s Pride special event permit with a 4-2 vote. Council members Tony Randazzo and Linda Brooks voted to approve the event.
The vote came after more than an hour of public comment, where 16 people spoke in support of the Abigail’s Pride event and five spoke against the event. The public agenda packet also included 42 letters of support for the event.
The original permit was denied at the regular council meeting in February due to the road closure it requires, despite the road closure being approved in previous years. At that time the council voted 5-1 to deny the event. Randazzo was the only person on council who voted to approve the event in February.
“We are saddened by the decision made by the village council to not approve our third annual Pride festival,” said Abigail’s Pride founder Abigail Rowe. “We wholeheartedly love this village. This is why we fought so hard to keep our pride festival within the village. We are happy to announce Pride in the Park at Brandon Township Community Park. Thank you to Brandon Township for reaching out to us and working with us. We are thrilled to be able to keep the pride festival in the community. Our plan is a bigger, better and safer pride festival.”
Abigail’s Pride, founded by Brandon High School student Abigail Rowe, is a nonprofit organization with a goal of creating a safe, happy and healthy environment for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. They have hosted a pride festival in downtown Ortonville the past two years.
Members of the council cited safety concerns, concerns for businesses, and criticism they have received as reasons they voted against the event.
“I was at the first two events working as a Brandon Community Emergency Response Team volunteer. Part of the reason I did that is because I do feel strongly that everyone has the right to gather peacefully and express their views,” said Council Member Larry Hayden. “However, at both events, I observed safety issues due to poor planning and coordination by the event organizers. Last year, the organizer of this event asked if they could close the road a few hours earlier than was in the permit, this was after the permit was already approved. I informed the organizer that CERT has no authority to deviate from the permit, and that there was time to resubmit the permit and have it approved before the event. As a result of that, there was a serious safety issue when the vendors started setting up while the road was still open to traffic. Our DPW supervisor had to close the road before the approved time, which was a breach of the permit that was approved.”
Hayden also said the road closure also negatively impacts businesses and residents of the village, and that he found the criticism the board has received to be unprofessional.
“I want to make it very clear that at no time did this village turn away this event. And I don’t think everyone knows that,” said President Pro Tempore Melanie Nivelt. “I’ve been losing sleep. I’ve never been so bullied in my life. I have volunteered for many things in this community for 21 years, weather it’s been elected, appointed, just volunteer. I can’t believe how disheartening and upsetting this has been. The village, I believe, made generous attempts for alternatives. Crossman Park was suggested, Hadley Park was suggested, we also suggested closing another road. All of those were turned down. I don’t understand why. This is over a street closure. We have to cut it off somewhere so our businesses don’t have street closures every weekend or for every event that anyone thinks of and organizes.”
During the press conference on March 20, Village President Ken Quisenberry suggested the event move to Crossman Park, but it is not known if this was suggested by the council to the Abigail’s Pride team. The park on Hadley Road is not located in the village and is owned by Brandon Township. It is not known what other road closure was suggested.
Randazzo, who was in support of the event permit, said that he is willing to work with anyone regardless of political or religious affiliation as a council member.
“Who cares if somebody calls you a name,” he said. “It’s called sticks and stones.”
The event will be held at the Brandon Township Community Park, 1414 Hadley Road, Ortonville on June 1, 4-8 p.m.

One Response to "Abigail’s Pride: ‘Bigger, better and safer’"

  1. RG   April 6, 2024 at 11:57 pm

    I commend the Council for doing the right thing for all of the residents and businesses of the village. Special interest groups immediately scream some type of “ism ” when things do not go their way, but don’t actually listen to common sense and logic. Safety concerns, traffic issues, and road closures that negatively affect businesses are not good for the Village.


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