Shrewsbury holds first-ever Pride, Juneteenth events
Members of the town’s DEIB Committee (L-R Cinthia Mesquita, Freddi Koss, and Adeola Mbaneme) run the Juneteenth event. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – As Freddi Koss watched the celebration unfold at Dean Park after months of planning, they felt a sense of pride.

That’s “pride” in the typical sense, but also capital-“P” “Pride,” meant to indicate the LGBTQIA+ community’s celebration during the month of June.

Koss and the rest of Shrewsbury’s seven-member DEIB Committee held two events within the span of two days. On June 26, the Pride event was held at Dean Park, and the following day, the town’s Juneteenth celebration, led by DEIB Committee member Adeola Mbaneme, was held at Shrewsbury’s Summer Market. Both events were the first in the town’s history.

“Shrewsbury has so many wonderful people from all walks of life – it’s a very diverse community – and everybody that we’ve met here is excited. It’s a really beautiful event. This community is a special gem, so it’s great to know this event came to fruition,” Mbaneme said at the Juneteenth event.

The Pride celebration featured rock decorating, Uhlman’s ice cream and opportunities to socialize under the pavilion at Dean Park. Although the event started with brief rain, it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the large crowd that turned out for the event. Various Pride flags were hung on the pavilion, and attendees were treated to collections of Pride-themed items, like colorful stickers, bracelets, and more.

“It means a lot to me that I get to be a part of it,” said Koss.

They noted that growing up, they never thought Shrewsbury would hold an event like this.

Shrewsbury holds first-ever Pride, Juneteenth events
Freddi Koss (left) enjoys the Pride event with a friend. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

“I’m really glad that it’s happening,” said Koss. “High-school me didn’t realize that any of this was allowed. I did in some sense, but it was much harsher back [when I was younger]. I’m glad to see that there’s a shift and we can have an event like this. We’re making it happen.”

Juneteenth was celebrated at the Summer Market, with DEIB Committee members handing out bead necklaces, books and other Juneteenth-themed tokens. Families stopped by the booth to learn about one of the country’s newest holidays.

“I thought it was important [to hold this event]. As a member of the DEIB Committee, part of our charge is to do things in the community to bring more inclusivity and community togetherness. We just thought that celebrating all the beautiful holidays – especially Juneteenth, being one of the newer ones – was a great way to bring awareness to it. We wanted people to know that it’s a U.S. holiday. It’s a holiday for all,” said Mbaneme.