Since the organization announced the event a week ago on Facebook, it has reached about 80,000 people, he said, an indication of the excitement it is generating.
One detail is firm: “We are not doing a parade,” Stone-Welch said. “I know people get really upset about traffic, and some people get upset about the nature of a Pride event. So I want to make sure people are not getting mad about a parade that’s not existing.”
Gaby Neal, an attorney in Dayton and Class of 2002 Hamilton High School graduate, said she’s proud of Hamilton, and getting increasingly more proud.
“I’m just really so excited to see my hometown progressing, and embracing the diversity and the love that Pride represents,” she said.
She’s straight and married to Fairfield High School 2003 graduate Matt Neal. The two have been involved and operated several Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre productions. She, for example, produced One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s News last theater season, while he directed it. In the musical Assassins, she also played Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who attempted to kill President Gerald Ford.
“I think while I was growing up, maybe there was a viewpoint that this was a very conservative city, and very traditional in that sense, but we need to evolve, and we need to accept each other and love one another,” she said. “And that’s what they’re doing.”
Mel Kutzera, an owner of West Central Wine in Middletown and organizer of Middletown’s event, said the goal is to always hold the city’s event the Friday before Cincinnati’s Pride event. It will start at 5 p.m. June 26, and will have more events than before.
“We were overwhelmed with the number of people who showed up last year,” she said.
This year there again will be a family-friendly drag show, a “Silent Disco,” where people wear headphones that allow them to listen and dance to several types of music simultaneously. Middletown also has a Pride bicycle ride, and this year will have more events on the stage, Kutzera said.
Such events can help people know there are more people like them living locally, Stone-Welch said.
“I grew up here, and there was a time for a few years when I felt very alone, like I was different and it was bad,” said Stone-Welch, a 2010 Hamilton High School graduate. “And for a long time I thought I would just move away, and never come back.
“To me, events like a Pride event, it’s a public way to show young kids who are maybe struggling with their sexuality or their identity, it is a way to show them that you’re accepted here, you’re welcome here, and that you can actually stay here. That’s my personal reason I got involved and think it’s important, because I’m very happy that I’m in Hamilton. I met my husband here, and I have a great community around me.”
He hopes this will keep other young people from leaving Hamilton.
“I’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘I can’t believe my hometown did this; I might actually come home to participate,’” he said.
Hamilton Ohio Pride is a certified non-profit organization with funds held on its behalf by the Hamilton Community Foundation. Funding and sponsorships are being sought now.
People can contact the organization about the event at firstname.lastname@example.org. People already have donated more than $1,000 to the event, and others can contribute through the community foundation’s website, he said.
Meanwhile, Middletown as a fundraiser for its Pride event will have a drag show for people 21 and older, 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Windamere, with tickets ranging from $30 to $75. Information can be found at the Pride Middletown page on Facebook.