Prizm News / May 29, 2018 / By JC McElravey

Photo above courtesy of Cincinnati Pride. Photo at top courtesy of Athens Pride.

Our annual celebrations have expanded beyond the big cities to smaller communities all over the state.


By JC McElravey

People from all over Ohio will head to Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati this month to be out and proud, to see and be seen, to be counted in support of LGBTQ civil rights, and to buy just about anything with a rainbow on it.

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But as LGBTQ people feel more and more comfortable living in areas outside the
big cities, they’re also more comfortable celebrating Pride in their own hometowns.

Pride events will take place in at least 16 cities across Ohio this summer, and they’re not just in places where people have celebrated for decades. In communities such as Lancaster, Newark, Mansfield and Sandusky, they’re now hosting Pride marches on Downtown streets and festivals in local parks.

“Lancaster is my hometown, and it is amazing seeing this community come together with no hate and with open arms,” drag performer Lady Davona says of her Central Ohio community of 40,000. Lancaster will stage its second-ever Pride on Saturday, June 2.

Newark and Sandusky are hosting their first Pride festivals this year with musicians, comedians, drag performers and vendors.

Among major sponsors for events scheduled June 21-24 in Sandusky is Lake Erie Shores & Islands, the tourism promoter for Erie and Ottawa counties. Sandusky native Jim Obergefell, whose lawsuit led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality decision, will speak on June 21.

Three local women planned the events, which one said would offer LGBTQ residents a greater sense of community and others in Sandusky a little greater understanding.

“I’m hoping it opens up people’s minds to different things,” organizer Robin Hudnall told the Sandusky Register when they announced plans in February. “We are in small-town Ohio, but I believe Sandusky is capable of way bigger and better things.”

Newark, about 30 miles east of Columbus, embodies the changes taking place and the stereotypes that persist in small-town Ohio.

It’s city of 50,000 that boasts two openly gay City Council members and will celebrate Pride on Saturday, June 9.

Organizer Trisha Pound says enthusiasm for the event is a reflection not just of the local LGBTQ community but of pride in Newark as well.

But the event hasn’t been without controversy. When council member Sean Fennell asked county commissioners to shine rainbow-colored lights on the Licking County Courthouse for Pride, commissioners who had allowed other combinations for observations such as St. Patrick’s Day and the spring equinox quickly came up with a policy they cited to deny the request.

“This is not a battle we should have to fight,” Fennell told commissioners at a May 1 meeting.

JC McElravey graduated in May from the Arts & College Preparatory Academy in Columbus and will be attending Columbus State Community College this fall. They reported and helped write this story as part of a three-week career-exploring internship with Prizm.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.