Jul. 10—ASHLAND — The Ashland Pride picnic at the Ashland Riverfront Park went on in spite of rainy weather on Saturday.
Holly Edwards, President of Ashland Pride, said the nonprofit group was formed because the necessity for a place for the local LGBQTIA+ community citizens in Ashland and surrounding areas and their allies to have a safe place.
"We are a safe place for that community to come to," Edwards said.
Founded in 2019, Ashland Pride has monthly meetings and offers training to help people learn about things such as gender and vocabulary, according to Edwards.
"We have all kinds of programs that we are running to help the queer community in the area be more accepted and safe," Edwards said.
The group can be reached on their social media sites such as Ashland Ky Pride on Facebook.
"Facebook is the fastest way to reach us, but we also have a website, ashlandpride.com, and we can be reached there," she said.
Edwards said she encourages anyone who is interested in the group's training and information to reach out.
Edwards said the need for a "safe space" is an important issue because she feels that the LGBQTIA+ community isn't as accepted in the larger community as they would like to be.
"Some local people or organizations can be hostile to us," Edwards said. "So we want to give people the space, the group they can come to, and be themselves and express themselves. Everyone needs a place where they can love who they love and be themselves."
Saturday was the group's second annual Pride Month celebration, and the date was pushed back, she said, due to Summer Motion using the riverfront venue.
"It's just a big public, family-friendly celebration," Edwards said of the picnic. "It's a celebration for the local queer community and our friends and families to come and have a great time and watch live music."
The event featured multiple area vendors, food trucks, music and drag queen performances. The event also saw Mayor Matt Perkins proclaim July 9, 2022, Pride Day in Ashland.
Edwards said the ultimate goal would be to create a physical space for the queer community that would provide resources and even a clothing closet for transgender people.
"We would also like to provide a meeting space for the parents of teens who have come out can have a support group," she said.
"We are a nonprofit," Edwards said. "And our immediate goal is to create as many opportunities as possible for people to feel welcome, accepted and seen," she said.
One group present at the picnic was Free Mom Hugs.
Robin Parker, Kim Hartz, and Gayla Rice were present representing that organization, and Parker said the group is part of the Kentucky chapter of a national nonprofit whose purpose is to quite literally pass out free hugs to those in need.
"Our purpose is to affirm the LGBQTIA community," Parker said, "and we do that in a variety of ways. We are most famous for giving out hugs and high-fives at events. We also do a number of things like sending a gift basket to an LGBQTIA+ kid who might be in the hospital, or relief to a couple in Lexington whose Pride flag was burned on their house."
Parker said the group and others like them do a variety of things for the LGBQTIA community, supporting those who have been harassed and ostracized.
"I'm a mom," Kim Hartz of Free Mom Hugs said. "And I like to spread joy wherever I can. As a lesbian mom, my children have grown up in the community. I have a bisexual son and a bisexual daughter, and I told them to love who they want."
Everyone should have the freedom to do that, she said, without judgment.
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