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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 15, 2006

Pride, next to the demolition derby

Delaware group does outreach where you least expect it--at the county fair

Delaware, Ohio--For the second year in a row, visitors to the Delaware County Fair will be met with a message of tolerance and inclusion.

The Delaware Gay Straight Christian Alliance will be manning a booth in the Coliseum at the fair, which runs from September 16 to 23.

�We didn�t really know what to expect beforehand,� said Howard Blanchard, an Alliance member who worked at the booth last year, �but the experience was an extremely positive one.�

Tony Marconi, another member of the Alliance, also put in many hours at the booth last year.

�We were overwhelmed at the amount of positive support we received from people who visited our booth,� Marconi said.

�I also enjoyed some sincerely heartfelt discussions with people who view Scripture passages differently than we do,� he continued, �but almost without exception, our exchanges were polite and respectful.�

�I think that says a lot about our community,� he concluded.

According to member Martha Filipic, Blanchard will work the booth every morning, and Marconi, a school teacher, will work in the evenings and on weekends.

She pointed out that fair is an important event in this community, just north of Columbus.

�In Delaware County, the fair is a pretty big deal, and last year when we first considered this, what we wanted to do was raise our profile in the community,� she said. �We felt like there were a lot of people who didn�t realize we existed, and we thought that it would be a good venue to get the word out there.�

The reasoning was sound, and the group benefited greatly from their participation last year, Filipic said.

�We had little sign-up forms for people to be notified of upcoming events,� she noted. �We probably increased our notification list by at least a third.�

�As far as attendance at worship services, it varies anywhere from 40 to 75, just depending on who knows what,� she continued. Just after the fair, our next worship service was in October, and we had a really good turnout for that service and a lot of new faces.�

Perhaps even more important than garnering new rank-and-file members, the booth at the fair last year brought in a new member for the planning committee.

�Somebody saw us there and thought it was a really good idea, and now is working at planning services,� Filipic stated.

While Stonewall Columbus ran a booth at the Ohio State Fair in the 1980s and 1990s, they stopped around the turn of the century. LGBT involvement at county fairs is even more rare.

This year�s booth will have added support--it is being co-sponsored by Equality Ohio. Marconi is a board member of the statewide organization, so they will be able to give people information both on local events and on statewide issues.

The Delaware Gay Straight Christian Alliance puts on three welcoming worship services each year, and a number of other events, both educational and social. The next worship service will be on October 22 at Zion United Church of Christ, 51 West Central Avenue in Delaware.



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