There was nothing but love at the 8th Annual Youngstown Pride Festival in downtown Youngstown.
People of all ages came to show their support for the LGBTQ community at the festival on Saturday. Festival-goers decked out in rainbow-colored attire stopped to connect with social service groups and visit vendors selling merchandise displaying messages of love and equal rights. Singers and drag queens performed for the crowd.
This festival was organized by Youngstown Pride, Inc.
Tim Bortner, YSUnity president, said that now more than ever, it is important for the LGBT+ community to come together as one, practice unity and preach awareness.
“We still need support, education, and awareness for everyone cause there’s a lot of people outside these fences who hate us,” Bortner said. “I think that’s the most important thing to recognize — we have to continue to do things like this to show them we’re not afraid. We aren’t going to back down, and if they actually take the time to get to know us we aren’t that bad.”
Brian Wells, an academic advisor in the Bitonte College of Health & Human Services, said Pride Youngstown makes the celebration more accessible to people who may not be able to travel to bigger festivals in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. It also allows people to celebrate Pride in their hometown.
“Having Pride in Youngstown also provides an opportunity for people to realize there are LGBT+ people just like them living within the Mahoning Valley—letting them know they are not alone,” Wells said.
Evan Miller-Murphy, a festival attendee, said this year’s pride festival was larger than ever, proving that despite all of the hate in the world, people still wish to gather to celebrate love.
“There’s a lot more sentiment this year. There’s so much division in this country right now, so many people who are reaching for hate, but I think it’s balancing out,” Miller-Murphy said. “Just as many people are reaching for love and understanding as you have reaching for hate and violence.”
Wells said he noted an increased number of vendors and social service providers at the festival this year.
“The fact that adoption agencies and social service agencies are seeking out LGBT+ people to be foster and adoptive parents is a great demonstration of progress which has been made by our community in recent years,” Wells said.
Miller-Murphy said the high attendance of Pride was symbolic and showed that the power of love overcomes the drive of hatred even in the worst scenarios, like the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando.
“People being here today is a sure sign that there are a lot of people willing to risk anything, love is a stronger motivator than anything,” Miller-Murphy said. “Love conquers all.”