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Athens Pride Week: PrideFest Returns Among Community Celebrations

Athens Pride & Queer Collective board members Krystal Hamm, Becky Loccisano, Ross King and Kiersten Meehan. Credit: Athens Pride & Queer Collective

Pride Week, currently underway in Athens, is buzzing with a renewed energy and fresh excitement carrying over from some significant milestones celebrated this year by the LGBTQ+ community. In particular, the community experienced a lot of positive changes and accomplishments this past summer.

Back in the middle of May, Athens PRIDE and Athens Queer Collective merged the two separate organizations to form the Athens Pride & Queer Collective (APQC), a new organization committed to affecting the lives of queer communities, in addition to the event curation previously at the forefront. On May 18, Athens PRIDE announced on Facebook, “Today is a new day—WE are now officially Athens Pride and Queer Collective—and as our new mission statement says clearly, we are ‘dedicated to the advancement of equity, affirmation, diversity, and wellness of queer populations in the greater Athens area by working with historically marginalized communities through outreach, social connection, education, and events.’”

This news came just ahead of the Athens-Clarke County government formally recognizing June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. For the first time, the Pride flag was raised over City Hall for half the month, sharing time with a flag honoring Juneteenth. The flag raising set a supportive tone for APQC’s first annual Pride Parade that took place downtown and ended in a celebration at Lay Park. What was expected to be a turnout of a few hundred people ended up totaling over 3,000.

“Our board conducted a survey of our communities to get feedback from those in attendance. The amount of survey responses that said, ‘This event saved my life’ or ‘This event showed me my city is here for me’ are innumerable,” says APQC President Cameron Jay Harrelson. “That is what it’s all about, and why APQC will continue to invest in large- and small-scale events to provide safe spaces and moments of visibility for queer people in the greater Athens area.”

Athens Pride & Queer Collective

Athens Pride Week has existed for just over a decade, with the organization’s board continually reevaluating how to connect the community to resources best, change up events and honor the attendees’ favorite events. Two of the most well-attended and most-anticipated events are Queer Prom and PrideFest. Queer Prom, held this year at Ciné on Friday, Sept. 16, provides a welcoming formal dance experience for members of the community who may not have been able to openly take the date of their choice to high school prom, or for those who may have had bad experiences due to their identity. Although Queer Prom creates a needed and appreciated space for people to reclaim their prom experience, the age-old dilemma of not having a date can (and does) strike anyone. This inspired Queer Arts Athens President David Cowan to organize a queer prom friend group open to anyone looking for supportive people to go to prom with.

“I was on my back porch enjoying the sun and seltzer just thinking about who I would ask to Queer Prom, and since my partner wasn’t available I thought, ‘Huh, what a strange predicament to find myself in. I want to go to prom, but I don’t have anyone to go with,’” says Cowan. “So then I thought, well I have an organization and a community, and I also can’t be the only one feeling this way. So I realized I had an opportunity to create something that allowed even those without a date to feel safe and excited to go to Queer Prom.”

PrideFest, a far more casual event with a classic festival environment, will take place from 12–8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Terrapin Beer Co. Harrelson says the board received feedback from last year’s gathering that more food options were needed, so this year there is a full food court. Likewise, overheating and dehydration were an issue at the recent parade, so the festival will have a first-aid and hydration station. Creating a safe and inclusive environment for the community is an essential aspect behind all of APQC’s events.

©2021 Sarah White Attendees at last year’s PrideFest enjoying performances and other activities at Terrapin Beer Co.

For regular attendees and those already familiar with PrideFest, the festivities will feel and look very much the same from last year. Vendors will be on site all day, and performances by Canopy Studios, Cathleen Thomas, Sarah Mootz, Tears for the Dying, Exquisite Gender and Convict Julie will lead up to the Starlight Showcase drag hour hosted by Karmella at 7 p.m. This event is free and suited for all-ages, with separate family-friendly and mature afterparty events to follow at Ciné and Live Wire respectively.

Although Pride Week has already started, there are a variety of events still happening around town through Sunday. For more information, visit