Rainbow flags and fans waved through the humid air this weekend as Granville residents came together to celebrate LGBTQ+ individuals.

“Unity is our strength,” Mark Carr, Granville Pride board president, said in his speech at Granville’s Pride Festival on Saturday, June 22.

Large rainbow arches welcomed people of all ages, identities, and sexualities to Granville this weekend during the village’s third annual pride festival. Granville Pride hosted the event at Lamson Lodge at Denison University alongside vendors, food trucks, drag queens, and community resources and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Carr said the goal of Granville Pride was to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and bring awareness to the struggles they face every day. 

“We are facing unprecedented [anti-]LGBTQ+ laws federally, state, and local, and so we are here to be a visible presence for that fight,” Carr said.  

In the past three years, several anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in the Ohio legislature that would prohibit transgender individuals from using the bathrooms that match their gender or competing in certain sports. 

Other bills, including House Bill 68 — introduced earlier this year — give parents the ability to prohibit their children from transitioning genders while they are minors. 

And in 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice reported 81 hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and another 45 hate crimes motivated by gender identity in Ohio.

Carr helped organize the first Granville Pride event that same year after he saw “aggressive hate” toward the LGBTQ+ community in Licking County, he said. Even though the event was organized in under two weeks, about 1,000 people attended. 

This year, Granville’s Pride celebration brought 1,000 people to the festival market filled with representatives from local businesses and organizations. 

Linda Mossholder, a member of the United Church of Granville — long recognized for its LGBTQ+ activism and its decision to become “welcoming and affirming” in the 1980s — said it was important for parishioners to attend the event to show people there was a church that would accept them if they wanted to attend. 

“This is a place where you can come and feel welcome,” she said during the festival Saturday. 

See also: TRP Docs: Repaint Our Parish

Granville High School’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to gather. The group focuses on educating each other about their different sexualities and identities and raising money for organizations that support LGBTQ+ communities, like the Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus.

Aylen Dalke, a recent Granville graduate and member of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, was awarded the Granville Pride Scholarship at the festival. She expressed the importance of having a safe space for people of all different identities at a school in rural Ohio. 

“It’s (Granville Pride) been a really great experience for me,” said Sophia Sturian, a rising Granville High School senior and the Gender-Sexuality Alliance co-president. “Because I was able to come together with so many supportive people and share my common experience with them it helped me feel a lot more confident about my sexuality.”

Kim Keethler Ball, a Granville Village Council member, spoke on behalf of the Granville mayor and village council at the pride festival. She pointed out the visible support from the community at the event. 

“What began as folks emerging from rural isolation is now Granville Strong,” Keethler Ball said. “We are a community in our schools, in our friends, in our families, in our allies. Being an inclusive and welcoming community is who we are.”

Celeste Nichols, a Licking County League of Women Voters member, worked a voter registration table at the pride festival. Along with helping people to register to vote, she helped people check if their registration was at risk. 

See also: More than 2,000 people could be removed from Licking County voter rolls

“This is a really critical election, and we just want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to vote,” Nichols said. 

Carr presented local candidates who support LGBTQ+ communities and their rights: Jamie Hough for House District 69 State Representative, Nick Hubbell for Ohio State Senate, and Jerrad Christian for Ohio’s Congressional District 12.

“They are the ones who are going to fight for us and we need to fight for them with our votes in November,” Carr said.

Hough participated in Granville Pride at the Licking Count Democrats table with his partner. 

“We don’t have enough folks fighting for us so it’s time to show up and show out,” Hough said. 

“This pride celebration not only is a festival — it’s our solemn pledge to ourselves and to each other that we will preserve until every individual can live authentically and without fear,” Carr said. “Our goal for the day is for people to leave being seen and being celebrated.”

Caroline Zollinger writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.