Pride & Inclusion Fest set for Saturday

Published 12:30 pm Monday, October 16, 2023

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Saturday will be a first for Winchester and Clark County.

The first Winchester Pride & Inclusion Festival will occur from 1-6 p.m. on Depot Street.

The festival will feature food, entertainment and booths from different community organizations.

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Organizers hope the festival will also promote inclusivity and visibility for marginalized community members.

ProudTown, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth in rural areas, has served as the driving force behind the festival, and its leaders said the genesis came about from an informal support group.

“Through our nonprofit, ProudTown, we established a series of coffee talks that were meant to be informal support groups for people. As we started meeting other community members and interacting through the nonprofit that they wanted to have or would be really excited to see a pride festival in Winchester. So, we thought we should be the ones to make it happen,” said Tiffani Hays, one of the nonprofit’s cofounders.

The festival will feature over 20 vendors selling everything from clothing to trinkets.

Fourteen community partner vendors will also be in attendance.

“The community partner vendors will be welcoming churches, resource groups, foster agencies and mental health agencies,” Hays said.

Andi Stephenson, another ProudTown cofounder, emphasized the importance of the community partner vendors.

“I want it to be clear that there are services available for people who may not be able to access it,” Stephenson said. “So, there will be free HIV screenings; there will be an organization giving out Narcan, harm reduction education and free physical health screenings.”

Access to such organizations can be hard to come by for the LGBTQIA and rural communities.

“Already in rural areas, it is hard to access adequate healthcare and mental healthcare, but then you start looking at marginalized identities. It is hard to find affirming services for the LGBTQ community, or they just don’t know. So, it is a barrier to accessing services,” Stephenson said. “We are trying to lift that barrier.”

Visibility is another important aspect of the festival.

“Part of our purpose is we want kids to stay in Winchester and not go off to urban areas just because they have to,” Stephenson said. “We want to see Winchester progress, and we want people to stay here and come here. We want Winchester to be seen as welcoming and affirming, and you don’t just do that by telling people to drive to Lexington.”

In that spirit, the Pride and Inclusion Star Award will be given out at the festival.

ProudTown solicited the community for nominees and ended up with five individuals and one organization.

“We were looking for people who support diversity, equity, and inclusion for marginalized voices, especially those in the LGBTQ community,” Hays said.

The festival has enjoyed support from the community, but one aspect of that has surprised organizers.

“The support is there, but we have brought out support to the public view,”  Stephenson said.

“The whole reason we did this was to increase visibility, so the fact that there is so many people coming out of the woodwork and so many friendly people in this town who are offering up their services, their support and speaking out for us and our advocacy is overwhelmingly humbling,” Hays said.

ProudTown has received help from many private community members to promote the festival and DAM Holdings has stepped up to pay for the event insurance. Winchester First has sponsored the stage and an anonymous individual donated $200 to cover the cost of setting up and taking down the stage.

And for those in and out of the community who may not support the festival, Stephenson had this message: “We want them to be treated with love and respect. They are welcome to enjoy the services and festivities.”

For more information on the festival, visit its Facebook page by searching “Winchester Pride & Inclusion Fest hosted by ProudTown Inc.”