Patrick Griffin of Fayetteville sat in front of Seneca Street Brew Pub in Manlius holding an aggressive but honest sign in his hands. It read “Bigotry Has No Place Here” with the word bigotry written in rainbow lettering. 

He had heard that a small group of protesters had shown up to harass people attending the second annual Manlius Pride Festival on June 17. Griffin felt he had to do something. 

“My wife was running errands, and I had the kids, but I had her make this sign because I have terrible handwriting, and I wanted to get here as quickly as I could,” Griffin said. “I haven’t explored at all, not that I wouldn’t enjoy the party, but I’ve literally just been sitting here.”

By the time Griffin had arrived, the protesters, who wore black and white and stood across the street with large white banners and shouted at people passing by, had left the scene, about 30 minutes after the festival started. But for at least two more hours, Griffin stayed with his sign, like a peaceful guard, waiting to see if they would come back. They never did.

Anna Hinman, 12, and her mom, Kate Hinman, both of Manlius, at the Seneca Street Brew Pub Pride Festival. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current

“I’m happy to see the turnout. That’s the best answer we can give them,” Griffin said. “I’ve got plenty of friends from all types of sexualities and genders, and I love them, and I just don’t understand why people waste so much energy [opposing] it. We’ve just got so many other problems,” Griffin said. “Love is love.” 

This Saturday, the Manlius Pride Festival attracted more than 100 people to enjoy local art, craft beer, food, live music and family-friendly activities and events like face-painting, magic shows and a dunk tank. About 30 local art vendors set up tents in the brewery’s back parking lot, all with unique handmade crafts for sale. Other businesses promoted resources, support and education, like Fayetteville Free Library and The Q Center at ACR Health in Syracuse. Proceeds raised from the event’s art and bake sale raffle will be donated to CNY Pride and The Trevor Project to support LGBTQ+ awareness locally and nationally. 

Seneca Street Brew Pub owners Brooke and Heidi Menikheim said they were proud to bring this festival back and celebrate love for everyone for the second year in a row. 

Justin Boyer and Karie Schmitz, both of Syracuse, drink Out and Proud drinks during the Seneca Street Brew Pub Pride Festival. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current

Brooke Menikheim is the head brewer and helps run one of the only fully women-owned breweries in Central New York. She said she took special care with crafting this year’s specialty pride beer, CNY Pride, a raspberry blonde ale served with a dash of edible pink glitter when you order it at the bar. Proceeds from selling CNY Pride at the brewery will also be donated to charity.

“I actually was so concerned about this beer that I put it through a third fermentation, just to make sure that it cleared out, because I wanted it to be a really good beer for our pride celebration,” Menikheim said. 

The idea for the pride festival started when Cait Heiman, local artisan and owner of Wild Violet Made, met Heidi Menikheim when Heiman hosted a Right Mind Syracuse art workshop at the brewery. Wild Violet Made is a small, mother-daughter-owned business based in Syracuse that sells handmade resin home decor, jewelry and gifts. Heiman helped Menikheim coordinate the art vendors for both pride festivals and the town’s first annual drag show at the brewery earlier this month, which also reassured her confidence in the community’s strength. 

“We really like to make it known that there is an LGBTQ+ community here. I was absolutely blown away by the support we received from the drag show,” Heiman said. “I think it’s good to let people know that it’s here and that they have a safe space.”

One woman, Colleen Conahan Combs of Manlius, had seen the protesters earlier that afternoon while she was walking her dog in the neighborhood and said she felt disgusted to see them there. 

Roger, a rabbit belonging to Paul Jackman of Twin Magicians, gets attention at the Seneca Street Brew Pub Pride Festival. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current.

Later in the day, Combs said she felt better after the protesters had left, bringing back her two daughters, Iris, 10, and Olive, 12, to enjoy the festival.

Iris and Olive eventually learned about the anti-festival protestors, but Combs said she didn’t want to tell them at first, in an effort to shelter them from knowing that that type of hatred existed in their community. 

Despite the presence of protesters, the Manlius Democrats, who tabled at and co-sponsored the event, were optimistic about the LGBTQ+ community in Manlius. 

“In the last few years, I think we’ve seen the demographic shift in Manlius to be more progressive and inclusive,” said committee chair Prerna Deer, who referenced the 5-1 majority flip on the town board from Republican to Democrat in 2019. “I think it just goes to show that the community is changing, and their needs are changing. I’m sorry that people feel the need to come and protest such a happy, family-friendly, inclusive event, and I just hope it doesn’t deter people from noticing the great community that we’re fostering here.”

Four-month-old Theeran Deer at the Seneca Street Brew Pub Pride Festival. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current

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