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LGBTQIA+ community celebrated with annual Eastern Panhandle Pride festival

By Staff | Jul 5, 2019

Community members visit the Jefferson Democrats booth during the Eastern Panhandle Pride celebration on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Eastern Panhandle Pride’s 2019 celebration started with a bang on Saturday morning, as hundreds of visitors flocked to King Street to check out the booths and sport their rainbow attire.

The festival, which ended Saturday evening with the PRIDE! Drag Show and Dance Party in the War Memorial Building, drew attendees from throughout the Eastern Panhandle.

“I have a son that’s gay, and he told me to come up,” said Jane Starliper, of Martinsburg. “This is the first time I found out about it. There are very nice people here — people should look at people as people, and nothing else.”

Starliper came to the event with her husband, sister-in-law and sister, Tabitha Myers, of Martinsburg.

“I like the face that Shepherdstown is getting behind this and supporting it,” Myers said about the event, after she finished posing for a photograph at the Laughing Hat photo booth.

Blue Ridge Community and Technical College sophomore Kaitlyn King, left, walks through the Eastern Panhandle Pride festival with Shepherd University sophomore Grace Kearns and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College freshman Tyler Offutt, right, on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

Across the street, Just Sayin’ Graphics and Printed Flair owner Rachel Pierce was manning her booth at the festival, where she was sketching the faces of festival attendees with charcoal.

“Last year I just stayed in the shop, because I was making stuff for clients. But this year, I said, ‘I need to get up and do stuff,'” Pierce said, mentioning she had just finished making an order of T-shirts for the day’s events. “I love drawing. This was one of the projects you do in college drawing classes, and it was always one of my favorite things, so I thought it would be fun to do something different.”

For Eastern Panhandle Pride Vice President Jessie Ward, this year’s event was a success.

“We’re definitely getting a good turnout — I think a little better than last year,” Ward said, mentioning the pre-Pride pub crawl from the night before had the best turnout to-date. “There were swarms of people walking up and down these streets.

“My favorite thing is seeing all the people coming out and showing their support in their rainbow colors,” Ward said, with a smile. “So I guess the community is my favorite part.”

Rachel Pierce, owner of Just Sayin' Graphics and Printed Flair, sketches Paul and Susan Rack in her booth at the Eastern Panhandle Pride celebration on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

While Ward enjoys working on Eastern Panhandle Pride’s board with its other four members, she said there is room for more board members and volunteers. And, since the organization has been running for a few years now, most of the kinks have been worked out of its yearly events.

“We want fresh blood,” Ward said, mentioning June is the only time-demanding job for board members. “We have a good foundation now for what will work in the future.”

Shepherdstown Public Library Director Hali Taylor reads "Daddy, Papa and I" in the children's activity area in the War Memorial Building on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

Jane Starliper, left, and Brian Starliper, of Martinsburg, pose for a picture at the Laughing Hat photo booth on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston