Turning the Corner on an Ugly Past; Pride Flag Raised Over Downtown Toms River


TOMS RIVER-Evan Phalon, a strategic consultant for the Exit 82 Theater Company celebrated the raising of the LBGT Pride flag over Downtown Toms River.  Phalon, joined by Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher raised the flag, hoping to turn the page on an ugly history that continues to haunt Ocean County to this day.

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In 2006, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Police Lieutenant Laurel Hester’s fight for benefits for her domestic partner, Stacie Andree made national headlines.   The County’s Board of Chosen Freeholders sought to deny Andree’s rights to Hester’s benefits that would have been afforded to a husband and wife.  Same-sex marriage at that time was illegal in New Jersey.

“The Jersey Shore community is undergoing a demographic shift that’s helped spark not only its inaugural Pride celebration and the historic raising of the Pride flag, but this year’s nomination of the township’s first openly-gay mayoral candidate, lawyer and Toms River Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jonathan Petro, Phalon said. “In fact, earlier this month amid calls to protest the neighboring Lakewood BlueClaws’ Pride Night, counter-protesters converged on the minor league baseball stadium to show their support for the Shore’s growing LGBT+ community.”

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Phalon thanked Mayor Kelaher for his involvement.

“I’m very happy to share that, for the first time in its 252-year history, the Pride flag was raised over Toms River, NJ just this afternoon (6/20) by Mayor Kelaher. Exit 82 Theatre Company gifted the flag to the Township following the Council’s Pride Proclamation earlier this month,” Phalon said.   Flags were also gifted to the Ocean County Freeholders after their own Pride Proclamation just last night, as well as to Toms River High School South in the Downtown Village District on the day of their graduation.”


Established in 2009, Exit 82 Theatre Company has brought arts and culture back to Toms River and helped revive the once thriving Downtown business district. To date, it has produced more than 30 productions and taught over 300 students through its CAPA Academy.

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Visit their website, to learn more about their upcoming Pride Festival on June 22nd.