‘It’s all about respect’: How Middletown’s Pride events are changing in their second year

Middletown is marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the most pivotal moments in the gay rights movement, with its second annual Pride event in downtown.

Last year’s Pride event, which organizers described as a major success, was planned in 10 days, and this year they expect a larger crowd and possibly more anti-gay protesters because of the planning and publicity.

MORE: Drag show and pride parade supports Middletown’s LGBT community

The event runs from 5 to 11 p.m. today in downtown Middletown and features a Pride flag giveaway, Pride Ride Bicycle Parade, Pride Drag Show and Gender Fluid Fashion Shows, Silent Disco and screening of the Greatest Showman. Organizers said the party will continue in local eateries and bars until 2 a.m. Saturday.

The event is free and open to the public and will be held regardless of the weather. Organizers said there’s plenty of free parking downtown.

Otto Bohn, owner of Spoken Bicycles, where the bicycle parade will begin, said it’s important to “keep building” off the success of last year. Pride events also create an educational opportunity, he said.

“Pride is showing respect for everyone,” he said. “There is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a chance to be supportive and respect people. It’s a good way to learn about communities.”

Monica Nenni, co-owner of West Central Wine on Central Avenue, said the goal of the event is to invite the community to “celebrate with our neighbors and friends.”

It’s also a chance for parents to discuss different lifestyles with their children. She said many families in the LGBT community also are raising children.

“An opportunity to expose children to all sorts of people,” Nenni said. “Respect is in the forefront. It’s all about respect. That’s why we have it.”

She said volunteers will be walking downtown to assure people and protesters are on their “best behavior, respectful of one another.”

Nenni said Middletown holds the only Pride event between Dayton and Cincinnati. She said the event provides an opportunity for families to learn more about the LGBT community.

Nenni’s business partner, Mel Kutzera, who is married to a woman, said it’s important for people to understand the struggles of the LGBT community. It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall riots, a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.

She said the riots are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights.

The Dayton Pride event was held May 31-June 2, and the Cincinnati event is scheduled for Saturday.

WHAT: Middletown PRIDE

WHEN: 5 to 11 p.m. today

WHERE: Downtown Middletown

HOW MUCH: Free and open to public

Here is a schedule of events:

5-9 p.m.: Flag Grab, Pride Slide, White Dog Distilling, 1357 Central Ave.

5-11 p.m.: Beer and Rainbow Drink Tent, behind Pendleton Art Center, 1105 Central Ave.

6 p.m.: Pride Ride Bicycle Parade, leaves from Spoken Bicycles, 1201 Central Ave.

6-8 p.m.: Pride Art Exhibit, Pendleton Art Center

7-9:30 p.m.: Drag Shows, Gender Fluid Fashion Shows, Governor's Square, Central Avenue and Broad Street

9-11 p.m.: Silent Disco, Swallen's Lot

10 p.m.: Screening of the Greatest Showman, Windamere Event Center, 2 S. Main St.

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