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Shepherdstown celebrates Pride in Eastern Panhandle

By Staff | Jun 22, 2018

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle Lauren Coffey, of Martinsburg, left, kneels for a picture beside eight-year-old dog Bartleby and Justin Darlington, of Martinsburg, at The Laughing Hat’s photo booth at Eastern?Panhandle Pride’s festival in Shepherdstown last weekend.

Eastern Panhandle Pride held Pride-inspired events in downtown Shepherdstown throughout the weekend, celebrating the community’s LGBTQ members.

Although similar Pride festivals have been held in previous years, this year, Flower Haus owner Mark Harding was at the helm. Harding encouraged a few changes from last year’s festival during this year’s celebration, including moving Saturday’s Pride Playground Party from Morgan’s Grove Park to the area in front of Town Hall, and moving the festival from July to June, which is National LGBT Pride Month.

“I felt that, this year of all years, we need to show our history and our pride and the rural climate of our community in this political climate,” Harding, who has lived in Shepherdstown for three years, said. “So we decided if we were going to do this, to do it right, because this town loves festivals.”

Harding said EPP’s new leadership team quickly developed a “natural synergy” after the group’s former director handed over the reins. The team wanted to make the festival true to Shepherdstown, and keep it from developing into a commercial Pride celebration, so members focused on keeping the Eastern Panhandle’s rural heritage present.

EPP plans on having a stronger presence in the Eastern Panhandle throughout the year, and will hold its annual drag show in Shepherdstown Opera House as soon as the building’s renovation is complete. Harding said EPP’s goal is to not focus on sexual orientation, but on inclusion.

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle Women’s March West Virginia Vice President Jessie Ward, left, counts out change for a Pride punch card for Dana Fogle, right, of Shepherdstown at the Pride festival.

Lilly Bauer, a Shepherd University graduate and Moonrise Mehndi henna tattoo artist, said events like allow her to support the community.

“I myself am bisexual,” Bauer, who is from Martinsburg, said. “I have lots of gay (and) trans friends, and my 14-year-old daughter also identifies as bisexual, so it’s important for me to come out and support this.”

Terry Kent, of Kraken Kreatives in Shenandoah Junction, made jewelry and dream catchers specifically to sell at Pride this year.

“I’m kind of just playing with a lot of tree of life designs,” Kent said, mentioning she has been actively involved with Fairness West Virginia for the last four years. Kent was invited to participate in the event, which carefully vets potential vendors, making sure they specifically support Pride.

“This festival builds morale, and allows people to show who they are,” Kent said. “I kind of like fighting for the underdogs – be they real puppies or humanity.”

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle Tracy Cannon, left, of Hedgesville, holds still while Moonrise Mehndi henna painter Lilly Bauer finishes her henna tattoo design during the weekend’s festivities.

Dan Harris, an engineer and member of the Democratic Association, said the event helps promote Shepherdstown as a place for all people.

“I love Shepherdstown, and how this is a good, inclusive place. I work with gay people and I have gay family members and gay friends, and it hurts me to see them pushed out of their communities,” said Harris. “I think this event is important because it keeps Shepherdstown’s reputation as an inclusive community that supports all opinions.”