Tuesday, July 5

This rural Ohio village has 1,800 residents, 13 churches…and 1 big LGBTQ+ Pride celebration

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With Pride Month in full swing, celebrations of love and equality have been popping up all over Ohio. Cleveland and Columbus have already celebrated Pride in 2022 with tens of thousands in attendance.

Not to be out done — in spirit, if not in attendance — small, rural Ohio communities are certainly getting in on all the Pride action this year.

And after a two-year Pride hiatus, West Liberty was raring to go. 

West Liberty, Ohio

West Liberty is a small, rural village at the southern border of Logan County in west central Ohio. The locale boasts fewer than 2,000 people, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats by almost a 4-to-1 margin and a whopping 13 churches in their scant 1.12 square miles. Unsurprisingly, West Liberty hasn’t typically yielded a lot of out LGBTQ+ representation.

In 2019, Logan Boggs set out to change that. 

“We are definitely here and we are definitely queer,” Boggs said. “There is no reason why someone should feel like they have to leave their hometown to be themselves.”

Boggs has lived in and around the West Liberty area her entire life and sees her local community as a part of her identity. 

“That’s why a few years ago I looked around and thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t make sense that I have to drive an hour to go to a Pride event,’” she said. “We should be able to do that here.”

So in 2019, Boggs and a friend put the West Liberty area on the map by organizing a Pride parade and celebration. The event had a great turnout and an overwhelmingly positive response.

2019 West Liberty Pride Parade

Boggs also started an informal group called County Line Pride to help continue the expansion of LGBTQ+ rights, pride and activism in the Logan and Champaign counties in Ohio. County Line Pride has participated in other organized events in the area and has even organized some of their own including a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner last year for those who needed a chosen and supportive family around them. 

“I’d like to keep growing this so we can reach out to as many people as we can,” Boggs said. “I want people to feel comfortable and safe and welcome here. Just in the last few years, I’ve seen so many Pride flags go up and not just little ones, but big ones on houses, in stores and stickers in shop windows. There’s a trend in this area and in the country at large of moving towards more friendliness towards people. That normalization comes with more and more visibility.”

That’s why hosting the Pride parade felt so critical to Boggs because it allows people in the community to feel seen. Even for people who may not be able to come out and join the parade, Boggs wanted them to be able to see it from their windows or even just hear about it from friends or on social media.

“I want them to have that hope that other people are doing it here,” Boggs said. “Other people are asserting themselves and living their very best lives here and you can, too.” 

2019 West Liberty Pride celebration

Though the COVID-19 pandemic postponed West Liberty Pride for two years, this year the celebration was back in full swing on June 18. Boggs served is the sole organizer event and planned a day full of entertainment, vendors and collaborations with other groups to work toward the goal of making people feel more comfortable being themselves in the area. 

By all accounts, the Pride celebration was a huge success with around 200 in attendance. The 30-minute parade featured a flag twirling brigade, a group akin to Free Mom Hugs, and various live musical performances. After the parade, the LGBTQ+ celebration shared Lion’s Park with a softball tournament, and many folks wandered down to check out the festivities between games.

2022 West Liberty Pride Parade

Biggs promises that County Line Pride isn’t going anywhere and will hold events this fall and winter. Above all, she believes in the power of visibility, representation and in every individual’s power to create opportunities for their local, rural communities. 

“Anybody can organize something like this. I did it at 23-years-old with zero experience in parade planning and I’d never even been to a Pride event before,” Boggs said. “I want everyone to hear it doesn’t take a superhero [to do this]. It just takes somebody who cares. And that can be anybody. Anybody can bring this kind of joy and love and visibility to their towns. That’s what I would like to see is this just continue to ripple all around the state, country and world.” 🔥 

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About Author

Maria McGinnis is a recent graduate of Kent State University where she studied journalism and minored in advertising and psychology. She is now working as a freelance writer and editor. In her free time when she's not typing away on her laptop, Maria enjoys spending time with her friends and family, baking, yoga, discovering new music and thrift shopping.

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