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|First fall Athens Pride deemed ‘incredible’|
|by Christopher Seely|
|September 30, 2011 00:00|
Over the course of several days last week, hundreds of Athens, Ga., residents turned out for the first Athens Pride to take place in the fall.
“It was always just the picnic before, and I always felt — even though they were nice and you got to mingle — we were still hidden,” said Mike Chadwick, chair of Athens Pride this year. “By doing the events downtown I think we got a lot more participation. I was thrilled at the group there on Friday night at Dragaoke.”
The first annual Athens Pride Weekend spanned Sept. 22-25. In addition to the annual picnic, this year the Pride celebration also included a silent auction to benefit the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, Dragaoke, a dance, a “Celebration of Commitment” ceremony and other activities.
Also, more than 30 Athens businesses purchased rainbow flags, which were flown throughout the Athens Pride celebration.
For the past several years, Athens celebrated Pride with a spring picnic near the end of the school year, right before the University of Georgia graduation, Chadwick said. Moving it to the beginning of fall provided an opportunity to get students out and mixed into the community at the beginning of the school year.
Chadwick estimated that about 200 people attended Dragaoke on Sept. 23, the Sept. 24 silent auction raised more than $200, and 100 people attended the picnic on Sept. 25. There was no official theme for Athens Pride, but the goal was to bring people together.
“Athens has a very large gay population and it is very disjointed, and there has to be some means for us to help each other out when the need arises,” he said.
“It’s also very hard to meet other gay people here because we don’t have a bar currently,” Chadwick said. “As sad as it is to say, you either meet people at a bar or on the Internet, and it’s kind of nice if there’s another avenue.”
About 10 couples participated Sept. 25 in the first annual commitment ceremony, which was led by Rev. Renee DuBose, pastor of Our Hope Metropolitan Community Church, and Rev. Frank Scott, a congregant at the church.
“We stop for this moment to claim for ourselves an abiding awareness of eternal gratitude for the one that is here beside you, who loves us in the best and worst of our moments,” DuBose told the couples gathered on a grassy knoll by Lake Herrick.
“In this moment, we take the time to look into each other’s face and to see the truth, the reflection of love in each of our eyes,” she said. “The relationship that we share with each other brings laughter and joy, memory and hope, and our world is made holy by your commitment and your presence here today, here together.”
Before the ceremony, DuBose asked all the couples to say how long they have been together. The relationships spanned in time from 6 months to 18 years. One opposite sex couple participated.
Festival more diverse, accessible
The Pride festivities kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 22, with the 18th annual GLOBES Fall Reception. GLOBES is an organization of faculty, staff, graduate students and administrators, whose mission is to advocate for, develop and nurture UGA’s LGBT communities.
Annette Hatton, one of the founders of GLOBES and former chair of Athens Pride, said she was pleased with the new format for Pride.
“The fact that we had it, that people came, that we raised money, that there was a cohesive series of events – I think it was incredible,” Hatton said. “And I think people will hear about it.”
Hatton also said that this year there was a notable increase in the diversity of people involved with planning and attending the event, particularly transgendered persons and people of color.
For the first several years of its existence, GLOBES hosted the Athens Pride picnic, but about five years ago the organizers wanted more of a community-led event, to expand outside of the university, Hatton said.
Hatton convened a meeting of all the LGBT-friendly organizations she could find, and a website for the umbrella Athens Pride committee came into existence, she said.
Ricky Roberts serves as the Athens Pride treasurer and as current chair of GLOBES. She said she was happy that the organizers were able to make all the Pride events free and accessible for everyone in the community. She was one of the instigators for the changes in Pride this year.
“I felt like we were really not living up to our name, and it was important for me to push for us to realize a full celebration,” Roberts said.
Top photo: The first annual Athens Pride Weekend, Sept. 22-25, was celebrated with events including a picnic and commitment ceremony. (by Christopher Seely)
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