Bowling Green hosts first Pride Festival on Saturday

Patti Minter, a history professor at WKU, is involved in the Bowling Green Fairness group, which is a group working on getting the fairness ordinance passed in Bowling Green.

Rebekah Alvey

Bowling Green will have its first Pride Festival this weekend, hosted by members of the Bowling Green Fairness group.

The festival will be from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, in Circus Square Park with bands, entertainment, vendors and tables.

“It will be a historic day in the history of Bowling Green and the LGBTQ community,” said Patti Minter, a history professor and a member of the Bowling Green fairness group.

Bowling Green Fairness is a coalition working to get the fairness ordinance passed in Bowling Green, according to their Facebook page.

Minter said after seeing support from other similar events, she and the organization thought this year would be the right time for the inaugural festival. The festival is an opportunity to celebrate pride and the strength of the LGBTQ community, Minter said.

At the festival, Minter said there will be several local performances such as Heron and Crane, Just Us and a drag show with eight local performers. There will also be tables for nonprofits, food vendors and art activities for children.

Following the festival will be a march to city hall and a rally hosted by Bowling Green Fairness. Then, at 6 p.m., the Pride Crawl will begin.

The Pride Crawl features several local bars and restaurants that have been supportive of passing the Bowling Green fairness ordinance. Several of the bars will have special drinks for customers wearing a fairness or Pride Festival pin.

Minter said the Pride Crawl is a way to give back to businesses that have helped the fairness movement and support them. She said it is also a way for members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate after the festival and still feel safe.

“It will be absolutely amazing,” Minter said. “We’ve never had a public event like this before.”

Kristina Arnold, an associate professor in the art department, has been assisting with preparations for the festival. She said she is excited to see who attends the event, as well as which vendors and entertainment will be there.

Along with the celebration, Arnold said the festival sends an important message.

“The message is mainly that everyone is loved or accepted here,” Arnold said.

The Queer Student Union and the Transgender and Non-binary Student Group will be represented at the festival. Campbellsville senior Jeremy McFarland, also an intern at the Pride Center, is involved with both of these groups and said he is excited for the festival.

While McFarland has only been in Bowling Green for two years, he has become involved with fighting for the passing of the fairness ordinance by attending meetings. The fairness ordinance would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the already existing civil rights ordinances. Midway was the eighth Kentucky city to pass a fairness ordinance in 2015, following cities such as Louisville and Lexington.

There is also no fairness ordinance in McFarland’s hometown, and he said he remembered not knowing anyone from the LGBTQ community and feeling isolated. For him and other members of the LGBTQ community, he said it is difficult when feeling so disconnected.

A fairness ordinance, Minter said, would protect those within the LGBTQ community in housing, public accommodations and employment. Minter said without a fairness ordinance, it is legal to fire someone if they are or are perceived to be LGBTQ.

“We obviously think this is wrong,” Minter said.

Arnold said she has had students approach her with complaints of feeling unsafe or bullied because of who they are or who they were perceived to be. Arnold said fairness is especially important in the community because students need protection.

For a while, Arnold said fairness had drifted away from being her primary focus but after the presidential election, Arnold said she noticed a rhetoric of hate “amp up,” which caused her to re-engage at the local level.

As a college campus community, Minter said it is especially important to have legislation such as the fairness ordinance because it keeps members of the LGBTQ and all their talents in Bowling Green after graduation. She said she has encountered students who don’t feel safe and will seek a job in a city where they feel more comfortable.

Minter said a fairness ordinance and Pride Festival will help uplift those in the community and affirm that they belong in Bowling Green. She said this has been the goal of the Bowling Green Fairness group, and she is optimistic they will one day reach their goal.

Minter said she has seen the “devastation from homophobia,” which has pushed her to fight so long for this cause. Minter explained that if a group doesn’t have full rights, it is easier to erase their narrative. She said she and those fighting for fairness are working to “avoid erasure.”

“We all have to ask ourselves, ‘What world do you want to live in?’” Minter said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].edu.