Pride March, festival held at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg

Written By Rick Horner at the Potomac Local News

Fredericksburg Pride, a non-profit organization dedicated to forming a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ people, held its second annual pride march and festival in downtown Fredericksburg.

The festival in Old Mill Park on the banks of the Rappahannock River attracted hundreds of people. At the event, several local vendors, businesses, and organizations came to celebrate alongside its local LGBTQIA+ community, which offered food, prizes, music, entertainment, and other items for sale to festival attendees.

The 2021 festival attracted 53 vendors, and over 100 vendors participated in this year’s festival. According to Meegana Henry, Founder and President of Fredericksburg Pride, the event took a whole year to plan. It gained double the number of vendors compared to last year when the festival was held in Maury Playground Park.

“It’s been a really great show of support from the community, the business, from the residents, from the volunteers,” said Katie Jones, Vice President of Fredericksburg Pride. “We’ve had such a good outreach to support the event and to support the community. It’s been fantastic.”

Other affiliated organizations showed up at the festival to participate and support the community. Among those organizations was the Rappahannock Region Transgender Support, a group dedicated to helping people who fall under the transgender umbrella. The group also ran a clothing swap booth at the festival, which offered clothing for transgender people in their sizes.

“For a lot of people, this is their first pride festival, and the fun part is watching them because these are people that are closeted, they haven’t come out, or they’re just starting to come out to their friends, and they’re family, said Dani Butler, the group’s founder. “And that’s hard because not everybody understands, not everybody accepts, and they come down here, and everybody here is affirming and accepting. We know it’s hard. We’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.”

Another organization present at the festival was Free Mom Hugs, a national non-profit organization dedicated to offering support to LGBTQIA+ youth who are revealing they are gay.

“We wish that our organization didn’t need to exist, but we see the need out here. We’ve given out a lot of hugs, and it’s clear that support is needed,” said Kelly MacCleary, a member of the organization’s local chapter. “So we’ll be around until support isn’t needed.”

Another organization present at the event was the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault which provided support, treatment, and advocacy to persons affected by sexual assault.

“We find it very important to represent our community, be out, provide support for everyone, and sexual violence is, unfortunately, one of those things that do not discriminate, said Meghan Cole, the group’s community service specialist. LGBTQ individuals do face sexual violence at a disproportionate rate, and we want to provide some resources to them.”

Fredericksburg Pride President Meegana Henry told Potomac Local News that changes are planned for next year’s festival to accommodate more people, vendors, and other potential ideas.

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