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Pride of Morehead celebrates successful inaugural Pride Festival, looks to future events

Anabel Peterman

Pride of Morehead’s first-ever pride festival was last Saturday, April 20. Many members of the Morehead community made their way to First Street to celebrate all aspects of pride. Now, people have different ideas on how to move forward next year, but they all tie back to community.

Dozens of vendors from across the eastern Kentucky region made their way to the city of Morehead selling a variety of crafts, foods, and activities to take part in. Dakota Dustin is the owner of Free Spirit Tie Dye and a vendor at the pride festival. She said Pride, like her work, is all about spreading color into the world.

“I have come to realize that we are a very tolerant community, and there’s a lot of variation here. In gender, and size, and shapes and colors, and it’s all really beautiful. Really love this town,” said Dustin.

Multiple events took place up and down the street and drag shows ran through most of the day, drawing enthusiastic crowds. Live music from Moonlight Mile kicked off the day, with Jeremy Short’s band rocking the stage in the afternoon.

The Pride Festival was child and family-friendly, and specific activities catering to kids rested at the front, including a bouncy house, face painting, and even a sensory tent run by Amazing Opportunities Kentucky, a disabilities rights organization.

Kaitlyn Pascal, cofounder of AOK, said accessibility is key for an event with inclusivity at its core, like pride.

“One of our core values is equality, no matter your sex, gender, race, religion, that we’re going to accept you into our services or as a staff. But it’s also important to us because a lot of people that have disabilities also are part of the LGBTQ community,” said Pascal.

Willie Carver, local author of Gay Poems for Red States, echoes the importance of inclusivity. Carver said he was grateful to host a poetry reading for people much like him, attendees who have grappled with the intersection of being queer and Appalachian.

“I feel like often, to go into queer spaces, I need to be less Appalachian. And to go into Appalachian spaces, I need to be less queer,” said Carver.

Looking from the past to now, Carver said the queer community within Morehead has grown from small gatherings in dorms to what we see today, and he hopes the future is even brighter.

“I was thinking about so many people in those dorms who didn’t make it to this moment. And how pride is a strange mixture of remembering difficulties and boldly moving forward,” said Carver.

This event was the first in what organizers said they hope will be a long line of successful festivals for eastern Kentuckians. Many attendees shared the same enthusiasm. Darius Mink, an MSU student, said one of the most important topics that Pride of Morehead and other organizations can work toward is the protection of queer art.

“There’s so many people that are in the community that are doing things, but they’re doing them quietly because they don’t want to bring attention to themselves because they’re scared. Honestly, it’s sad to think about, but it’s something I hope these types of events can turn the tide on,” said Mink.

Kaitlyn Pascal with AOK added that pride events should also continue to have a conversation around accessibility. She said many accessibility barriers exist in Morehead, and a sensory tent is one of many ways events can be accommodating for children and people with disabilities.

“Having that, asking us, asking other organizations to do that is more welcoming because a lot of people feel like they can’t bring their kids that might need a break, or it might be too much,” said Pascal.

Pride of Morehead has various events planned for the future with the goal of giving queer residents a strong community. This Saturday, the organization will host its first Rainbow Rising event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Rowan County Public Library. Officials said the free gathering for LGBTQ youths and allies aged 13 through 18 will provide a space for nurturing and growth.