Firemen's Park stage lights

Firemen’s Park stage lights glow a rainbow color this month.

Armed with multicolored Superman ice cream and sprinkles, Chaska is publicly celebrating its LGBTQ+ neighbors later this month.

During its first-ever Chaska Pride Picnic, the public is invited to City Square Park for food, music and art projects to wrap up nationally-celebrated June Pride Month.

“Love is love,” says Sarah Carlson, Chaska Human Rights Commission chair. “It’s just one small step to illustrate that we have a caring community in Chaska regardless of who and where and how you love.”

The HRC is partnering with both the city and Chaska High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) for the Sunday, June 27 picnic. It will last from 4 to 6 p.m.

There, people can bring their own clothing to tie-dye, play yard games and enjoy food from trucks.

Kevin Wright, city communications manager, says the family-friendly picnic goes toward Chaska’s goal to be a welcoming and inclusive place.

“(It’s a) great way to continue to bring our community together and celebrate the diversity within our community as well,” he says.

Firemen’s Park is currently showing off a rainbow-colored display with stage lights to recognize Pride Month.

‘DOING THINGS TO MAKE CHANGE’

Ten years ago, Chaska High School GSA advisor and art teacher Cassie Bernhardt took over the alliance. Back then, there were two students in the club. Now, several dozen might regularly attend meetings.

“My kids have always been super interested in social justice and doing things to make change,” she says of the GSA group. “So this is just so exciting for them to see these things happening and have their voices being heard.”

Back in the winter, the GSA, HRC and city began thinking about ways to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. It’s something the HRC hadn’t tackled before, Carlson says.

“We’ve always focused on other areas of human rights’” she says. “I think we’ve been sparked by the events of Minneapolis and not too far from home all around us and in Chaska, racial issues, and we wanted to be more aggressive in our visibility in Chaska and I think this is just a great way to do this.”

Fueled by a yearly $2,000 allotted to the HRC from the city, Carlson says the picnic won’t use more than $500 of that. The funds include art supplies for the community art project, which will focus on decorating a string of pennons to display somewhere in the city.

She says the hope is to welcome 100 people to the park, perhaps more. But she and Bernhardt know not everyone supports the group.

“My view is always if you don’t agree then just don’t come,” Bernhardt says, but is happy to see support from Chaska and the HRC. “We’re just so excited the city is ready for us ... With all the diversity that we have, I love that they’re starting to celebrate it all.”

In the future, she says the city wants to partner more with the GSA in presentations and conversations. As for the HRC, it’s gearing up for an immigration program this fall and hopes to become more of a city pillar in the days to come.

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