PHOENIXVILLE - As many as 1,500 gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) community members, plus heterosexuals, will gather here during the first weekend in October to celebrate "Pride."

Three days of events celebrating alternative sexuality will take place at Frank Jeffrey's at the Hotel Washington, the Colonial Theatre and the Foundry Building with the theme, "Celebration of the Commitment Ceremony" or "Gay Wedding."

Chester County Pride, Inc. Vice President Jeff Ruud agreed with Pride President Bill Davidson that instead of holding the event in West Chester, as it was for its first two years, it would be moved to Phoenixville this year because this borough is home to the county's only gay bar, Frank Jeffrey's on Bridge Street.

"Pride in general is a chance for gay youth and those questioning their sexuality to surround themselves with people like them who they can feel comfortable with," said Davidson. "One of the main reasons we chose Phoenixville was that I was surprised by Frank Jeffrey's success and the number of people who showed up."

Both organizers said that they expect visitors from Chester County, many other Pa. counties and from other states.

"Every major city and town seems to have their Pride events, while there is nothing in the suburbs," said Ruud. "Everything seems to be happening in the big cities. This is an opportunity for gays, lesbians, family and friends to get together."

Chester County Pride, Inc. has seven board members and about a dozen committee e members, but is not a member-based organization.

The gay marriage and commitment themed weekend will celebrate what Rudd said were relationships that often last longer than for many heterosexuals.

"It's the issue of the year," said Davidson. "We're not trying to be political or religious, we're trying to make a statement."

"It's like Switzerland," said Rudd. "We're very neutral. I've had a seven-year commitment with my partner Frank Viera and that's longer than most heterosexual relationships."

The weekend will kick off at Frank Jeffrey's on Friday, move to the Colonial Theatre on Saturday and on Sunday the events will focus on the grounds of the Foundry Building.

Davidson said that he was grateful for a very supportive Phoenixville business community . He said that the event is partly sponsored by the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau and Budweiser.

For information on Pride and the event, visit the Web site or call 610-983-9595 for vendors, those interested in advertising or information.

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