Local Pride Events Happening Across the Mid-Ohio Valley

In cities and towns across the USA and the world over, LGBTQIA+ folks and their allies are celebrating Pride Month. Set in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 uprising which took place at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, Pride Month is a chance for queer people (and those who love and support them) to celebrate their history, culture, and community. Like so much else, many Pride celebrations in 2020 were put on hold or moved to virtual spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, as the world and our communities begin to reopen, the Mid-Ohio Valley is turning it out with the largest number of Pride events to date.

One local organization, Parkersburg Pride, has already gotten the party started via social media. Each day since June 1st, the PKB Pride Facebook and Instagram have been hosting photo hunts and  highlighting LGBTQIA+ icons such as Kate McKinnon, Elton John, and legendary Parkersburg drag queen and trans woman Amanda Love. Another local drag celebrity, Lucy Lipps, hosted an online trivia night via Facebook on June 4th.

Parkersburg Pride is no stranger to hosting local pride events. The non-profit organization was formed in 2018 in an attempt to give more visibility to the local LGBTQ community. “It kind of goes back to why we started, to try to normalize ourselves within the community,” said Parkersburg Pride President Chris Alfred. The group held Pride events at City Park in 2018 and 2019 with bands, drag queens, and tabling from other local non-profits. “The turnout was tremendous,” Alfred said. “More than we’d expected.”

As the pandemic halted large events and cast uncertainty on the possibility of gathering this year, PKB Pride made the decision to push their Pride celebration until fall. Their Pride celebration will be taking place again at City Park on October 2nd. However, as vaccination rates have climbed and spaces have begun to reopen, they recently announced that they will be hosting a summer pool party on Sunday, June 27th. The event, which will feature pizza and prizes, will take place at the Southwood pool from 5:30-7:30 p.m.. Tickets, which are free but limited due to capacity restrictions, are available via the Parkersburg Pride website.

We felt that there was just kind of a hole within the community for things that were needed.

Meanwhile, another group, Out MOV, has stepped up to host their first annual Pride in the Park on June 26th. The group, founded by Liz Hamperian, Jeanne Peters, and Kim Williams, was formed in August of 2019 with the intention of lobbying at the state and local levels.

“We felt that there was just kind of a hole within the community for things that were needed…when there were opportunities to go to the legislature there was nobody from Wood county that was able to,” said Hamperian. “We wanted to be able to say, ‘we are here, there’s a high population of us, and this isn’t going to work for us.’”

Though their origins were specifically political, Hamperian said they were looking forward to Pride in the Park being Out MOV’s, ‘coming out to the community.’ “We wanted to provide a free event, family friendly, to celebrate Pride Month,” she said. This year’s event, which takes place from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the City Park band shell, will feature a variety of local music acts including The Janes, Smokestack Betty, and Back Porch Alibi, plus appearances by charity group C8Cosplay and local performance artist Professor Bubblemaker. In addition, there will be tents set up offering community services (including free COVID-19 & HIV testing), a basket raffle, and a “wheel of fortune” that attendees can sign up via QR code to spin for prizes.

After the event in the park, an after party is scheduled at The Cocktail Bar, one of Pride in the Park’s main sponsors. Beginning at 9:00 p.m. (all ages welcome until 11) the party will feature drink specials and a live DJ. TCB owner Zak Huffman said he was happy to get involved after a previous Pride event, “was honestly the most fun we’ve ever had here.” “We want the LGBT community to feel celebrated,” he said. “And we’ve really tried to make [the bar] feel more inclusive all the time.”

In addition to all the festivities next weekend, two additional Pride events are scheduled for Thursday, June 24th. Out MOV is hosting, “The Pride is Right” trivia night (also at The Cocktail Bar beginning at 7:00 p.m.) with prizes as well as food and drink specials. Across the river in Marietta, 740 Social is hosting a POUND & Pour for Pride event. Kicking off at 5:00 p.m., the event begins with a 60 minutes of POUND (a fitness class featuring high energy cardio combined with drumming) followed by Pride-themed cocktails and mocktails along with trivia and prizes at 740 Social.

It was important for us to always let them know that they are loved and supported, and raise money for a worthy cause.

The event is being organized by instructors Stephanie Sanderson and Amber Newlon with all proceeds going to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQIA+ youth. “Amber and I are both allies, we both have people we love and care about in the LGBT community,” Sanderson said. “It was important for us to always let them know that they are loved and supported, and raise money for a worthy cause.” Tickets for the event are $25 and spaces can be reserved by Venmoing @Amber-Newlon-4 or sending a DM to @stephaniesandersonfit via Instagram.

Though 2021 marks some of the biggest Pride celebrations in the MOV to date, both Parkersburg Pride and Out MOV are hoping to expand their community outreach efforts well past the end of Pride Month. Both organizations pointed out the need to provide education and resources to young people, with Hamperian noting that the isolation of the last year and a half may have been particularly difficult for those still struggling with their identity or feelings of belonging. Alfred echoed this, pointing specifically to the need to assist young trans men and women with getting needed medical care.

“There are a lot of LGBT youths in the area who might not have a great support system,” he said. “We want to start creating those networks that they need.”