It was going to be an unusual year for Toledo Pride anyway, even before COVID-19. Lexi Hayman-Staples, the executive director of Toledo Pride, has been part of each local Pride festival since its inception in 2001. However, this year Hayman-Staples is expecting a baby in mid-August, scant days before this year’s festivities were scheduled to kick off.
“I was going to be stationed nearby, basically for recon and emergency contact,” Hayman-Staples explains. “So we were already going to be trying to figure out how to do stuff in a different way.”
A New Kind Of Pride
Then the pandemic hit, and all bets were off. As other events scheduled close to the Pride celebration’s date were postponed or cancelled, the committee in charge of the event held out hope, for a bit, that there would be some way that the festival could still happen this year. By May, the writing was on the wall.
“Since… Pride (is not a ticketed event), not knowing (the number of people who would be participating) made us really have to think, ‘oh, can we afford to do Pride if we only have half-capacity?’ And the answer was no, we can’t. So we had to think ‘what can we do?’” said Chad Turner, Toledo Pride’s marketing coordinator.
On May 9, the organizers announced that the 2020 festival was cancelled, while making it very clear that the spirit of Toledo Pride would still be alive, with a pair of new events this year bearing the Pride name— Pride on the Inside and Pride at the Drive-In.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Hayman-Staples said of the cancellation. “We would much rather be out celebrating and showing our pride. But we’re still hopeful to put on a very good event. It’s just going to be different.”
Pride On The Inside
Pride on the Inside will be a simulcast event on Saturday, August 22, the originally scheduled weekend for Pride. Shown at three area LGBT-owned and friendly establishments: Casey’s on Secor, Hamburger Mary’s at the Docks and Georgjz419 on Adams St.
“It’s will be that same Pride feeling that you get, just on a much smaller scale,” Hayman-Staples said. “And the cool thing is, we’re still supporting local LGBT businesses; making sure to have a little impact that way, as well” Featuring live music at each venue from 5-7pm, and then a simulcast of a two-hour special about Pride, hosted by area drag performers Deja D. Dellataro and Amber Stone. Each bar will enforce social distancing protocols to keep the evening safe for all attendees.
“We’re demonstrating that we’re still here in the community. Although we can’t have our traditional Pride (celebration), it’s very important to show that we’re still here,” Turner added.
Pride At The Drive-In
In September, the spirit of Pride will continue with Pride at the Drive-In, a new event held at the Sundance Kid Drive-In, on Navarre Ave. in Oregon. “The drive-in has done a lot of neat events this year, because many gatherings have been cancelled. But you can have a gathering there, yet still be socially distanced, while being able to communicate through radio transmission,” said Hayman-Staples.
Pride at the Drive-In, set for Thursday, September 10 at 7:30pm, will feature two movies to choose from, “The Birdcage” from 1996 and “Love Simon” from 2018. Preceded by a video about this year’s Toledo Pride events, as well as a short documentary about transgender artist Marsha Johnson, who ignited the Stonewall Riots that served as the inspiration for Pride, Heyman-Staples explains that the plan is to make Pride at the Drive-In an annual addition to the Toledo Pride schedule. “Each year, we can do a recap of Pride on the big screen, and celebrate that event. And it’s an even more accessible event then.”
Pride Lives On
The organizers have plans to host more events related to Toledo Pride throughout the balance of the calendar year, perhaps at area bars or at Pride Center 419 on Collingwood Blvd. But the primary focus remains to spread the message of love and inclusivity that has driven the movement from the beginning.
“Even during these weird, weird times, we still are able to put on something that’s positive and impactful. And we know the importance of LGBT youth to be able to see that we’re still here. Just because (most social events are) cancelled for the time being, doesn’t prohibit us from offering support. It doesn’t mean that we stop reaching out.”
For the latest information on Pride on the Inside and Pride at the Drive-In, visit toledopride.com