Less than a decade ago, Baltimore was the only venue in Maryland to hold Pride celebrations. Since then, Frederick and Hagerstown have joined the party, and Howard County could be right around the corner.
The western Maryland city of Cumberland with a population of just over 20,000 is the latest jurisdiction to celebrate LGBTQ Pride. It will begin July 6 and will culminate with a festival on July 9.
“For many LGBTQ people living in rural areas, it’s still 1993,” explains Jeremy Gosnell, one of the organizers. “Rural America has been slow to adopt policies that embrace the LGBTQ community and while gay marriage is legal nationwide, various states have enacted laws and ordinances that allow for discrimination. Perhaps a business doesn’t have to entertain a gay person’s request, or a venue can openly denounce and restrict gay weddings. While America has come far in its acceptance of homosexuality, there is still a long way to go.”
Gosnell continues, “Often those in their early or mid-20s don’t remember when LGBTQ people could be fired for their lifestyle or how AIDS was used almost as a weapon against the LGBTQ community. These young adults support diversity and we want to show surrounding towns and cities that even here in Western Maryland diversity is welcomed and supported.”
Jacqie McKenzie, another organizer, said, “If I’m going to raise my children in an area, I want them to know diversity, love and acceptance. All of the pieces are here; they were just hidden. This is the first step to bringing those pieces together and to helping this region embrace diversity and open-mindedness.”
She added, “Further, young people are not remaining here after graduation for a reason. Millennials crave life experiences including diverse cultures, lifestyles and orientations. Until now, these ideals were seemingly shunned here. Diversity does exist here, and our event will remind the world that you will be accepted here regardless of your background or life choices.”
The festivities kick off with a memorial on July 6 outside the Cumberland Theatre honoring those members of the LGBTQ community who lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub massacre, the Chechen Republic, and others who have experienced violence as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The memorial is followed by a screening of “The Boys in the Band” at the Cumberland Theatre at 8 p.m. for those 18 and over. Beer, wine and other concessions will be available.
The “Dress Your Best” event on July 7 will feature jazz music, dinner and a silent benefit auction at Dante’s in Frostburg. Frostburg State University students are encouraged to attend. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m.
On July 8 there will be a “One Love” paint party from 12-2 p.m. hosted by MountainShine Creative at the Liberty Stage.
“Boots and Ballcaps,” hosted by Jam Sauce collective, is a family-friendly event with live music and a crafts for kids from 2-8 p.m. The night is capped off with a pop-up dance club at Mezzo’s in Cumberland from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. for those aged 21 and older.
The four-day celebration is capped off by Sunday’s Pride Festival on Baltimore Street in downtown Cumberland on July 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a family-friendly event with children’s activities and live music.
Local politicians will offer words of support. A drag performance is scheduled as well as several local musicians and bands. In addition, the downtown space will be lined with businesses from the community who share their support and offer goods and services.
“Many walks of life find their way here and together we can build a positive, progressive future that focuses on the needs of society, while showing our children that tolerance and open communication serve to strengthen communities,” said McKenzie.
For more information, visit cumberlandpride.org.