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First-ever Pride Celebration in Ardmore to be held this weekend

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite

Annual LGBTQIA+ Pride traditions can be traced back nearly 50 years, with one of the first marches held in New York City on June 28, 1970. For the first time ever, a Pride Celebration will be held in Ardmore this weekend. 

The celebration, called the “Ardmore Pride and Health Fair”, will kick off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 27 outside of the Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, located at 2530 South Commerce Street. 

Ari James, a co-founder of the local Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ group, helped organize the event. James said he and the group’s other founder, Kyle Lawson, created the group around five or six years ago to start bringing people together and help them find resources.

A Pride Celebration had been considered but never came into fruition until this year. “Over the years we had talked about doing something and it just never felt like the right time,” James said. “People were always going to other places and things like that.” 

However, things ended up coming together perfectly this year, James said. “This year we were able to get, for the first time, a medical practitioner who is not just LGBTQ affirming, but also does a lot of the community specific healthcare that we haven’t been able to get here before.”

With support from Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers and the county health department, healthcare became a strong aspect of the celebration. James said the Ardmore celebration also falls on National HIV Testing Day and on-site HIV testing will be offered. 

“We’re going to be talking about that and then about prevention, which was previously not available locally,” James said. HIV screening will be done inside the Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers facility for privacy, but the rest of the celebration will be held outside. 

Food and beverage trucks will be available, vendors like Together Oklahoma will set up throughout the area and the main event of the day will be a dog parade. The dogs featured in the parade will be able to win first, second and third prizes. 

“We just thought it would be fun because so many of us have pets, that would give us something to do with appropriate distancing, to kind of hang out while still following guidelines,” James said. 

Most importantly, however, James said he wants to help educate the community on things like HIV prevention and resources for individuals, not only in the LGBTQIA+ community, but for everyone. 

“There’s so much overlap with other communities that may need some of the same resources that we’ve been looking for,” James said. “So I would just encourage anyone who’s curious about the community group or who might have questions about some of those other resources to just come out and ask any questions they might have.” 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to many community events that were in the works, James said the Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ group plans to hold more social events in the future. 

To find out more information or to register as a vendor for the Ardmore Pride and Health Fair, contact Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ at southernoklgbtq@gmail.com.