Pride in Athens is a relatively new event. The first pride fest was held only two years ago, but that doesn’t mean Athens Pride Fest is small.
Athens Pride Fest officially kicks off on Wednesday and will have events throughout the week that people of Athens and all over can attend. The fest features a monumental drag show that will feature a queen who appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a pride parade and rally and a drag queen story time at the Athens Public Library, 30 Home St.
Chris Nevil cannot understate the importance of pride.
“There’s always been a need and want for pride here in Athens,” Nevil, finance director and assistant executive director at Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance (SEORA), said, “But the manpower and the time to put in necessarily hasn’t always been here, so essentially, this organization has become the fuel for Athens Pride Fest.”
Being from Athens himself, Nevil has seen many positive changes his city has made toward making the LGBT population feel more welcomed.
“I identify as someone in the LGBT community, and I’m from Athens, so this is a big deal for me to see it happen here,” Nevil said. “It was so cool walking down Court Street with the pride flag after growing up here.”
Athens Pride Fest differs from “traditional” pride, Nevil said. Pride here exemplifies the progress made over the years in terms of LGBT rights and visibility.
“A new thing with pride is that it used to be a big city thing,” Nevil said. “You’d go to a big city for three days and participate in the parade. So it’s important now to see pride in smaller, more rural areas.”
Athens’ size, especially during the summer, allows its pride fest to be more communal and family-inclusive.
“Our pride fest is way more personal,” Nevil said.
Pride month in Athens wraps up at the Athens Public Library with an event that was a big hit last year: drag queen story time.
“A drag queen reads children’s books to kids,” Nevil said. “Normally books are about trans or LGBT youth, and the books are for kids, and the parents attend as well.”
Athens Pride Fest all adds up to an ultimate ambition for SEORA, Nevil said.
“Our goal is to actually have enough funds to open a physical resource center [for SEORA],” Nevil said. “We are providing a lot of free events, but we do have a lot of sponsors. Any leftover money goes toward our physical center savings.”
SEORA is also awarding the SEORA Scholarship at Athens Pride Fest, a $500 scholarship for any LGBT-identifying person.
Nevil hopes Athens Pride Fest grows more successful over time.
“Each year has gotten bigger and better, and we just plan on continuing that,” Nevil said.
Grace Brown, of Newark, is dating a student at Ohio University and is very enthusiastic about pride.
“I think pride is a great opportunity for people in the LGBT+ community to be themselves,” Brown said. “I think everyone should be themselves all the time, because love is love. Everyone deserves the same right to love as anyone else.”
Brown plans on attending Athens Pride Fest.
“I plan on going to the parade and celebrating with everyone,” she said.
For more information on various times and events, visit the SEORA Facebook page.