By Mikey Rox
Most of us head to our respective state’s major city to celebrate pride, or even travel to metropolitan meccas like New York, L.A., Miami, or Dallas. But across America, small cities, too, are celebrating what it means to be LGBT with all the energy and excitement of our nation’s pride powerhouses but with much more of a personal touch.
If you’re interested in a lower-key denizen of diversity this summer, head to these quaint-but-queer destinations to get your gay on.
Circle City IN Pride presented by Pinnacle Vodka in Indianapolis, Ind., hosts numerous events throughout the year to prepare and raise funds for its annual fete – but it’s the week’s worth of parties, races, drag shows, and picnics the second week of June that are the real show stoppers. The finale of this dedicated effort to keep members of the LGBT community contributing and visible is a festival that spans a large swatch of the American Legion Mall (a dedicated green space, not a shopping center) and the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade, which has expanded exponentially since its inception that featured one float, an antique truck, and a handful of walking orgs. This parade will be Indy’s biggest yet where Mayor Gregory A. Ballard will serve as Grand Marshal, the first time an Indianapolis mayor has participated. circlecityinpride.org
Albuquerque, New Mexico
You won’t have a hard time sweating out all your toxins in Albuquerque during its week-long Pride party that kicks off with an interfaith worship service. After you remove your goody two-shoes, soak up some of that iconic Southwest culture at an art show reception for Expo New Mexico, followed by a madcap parade attended by nearly 40,000 spectators. The celebration’s climax – a full-day festival – will feature a dance club, Latin dance stage, water and play park, and car show. abqpride.com
June 19 & 20
What began in the early ’90s as several small pride events – including the Louisville Pride Picnic and Pride Fair – has evolved into what’s known today as Kentuckiana Pride, a name established at the beginning of the millennium to put a wider focus on the entire region. Several shows (Mr. and Miss KPF Pageants; Bianca Del Rio: Rolodex of Hate Tour) lead up to the main event, which includes the “15 Years of Pride” parade (filmmaker Shane Bitney Crone, star of Bridegroom, will serve as Grand Marshal) and a two-day festival featuring a variety of food, entertainments, and showcases from local businesses and organizations. kypride.com
Capital City Pride
Despite being the capital city of Washington State (thought it was Seattle, didn’t ya?), Olympia broke free from its Starbucks-swigging, alt-rock loving cousin in 1991 to become the state’s first small town to host its own pride celebration. Twenty-five years later, its roots in the community of 36,000 people are stronger than ever. Highlights at Capital City Pride will include kickoff night at the Onion, a local watering hole; a performance by hometown queen Alusia; and the annual parade that boasts an impressive rainbow flag that spans several city blocks, a fleet of rainbow Mini Coopers, and nearly 15,000 attendees. capitalcitypride.net
With the motto “Live Out Proud,” you can be sure that Augusta Pride will be full of its signature southern charm. The weekend’s pride events get a jumpstart by Beats on Broad, the city’s largest outdoor dance party, which will take place on the Augusta Common. On Saturday, enjoy the annual pride parade procession followed by the pride festival, featuring performances by Maxine Nightingale, David Hernandez, Bebe Zahara Benet, and Victoria Porkchop. Of course, you won’t want to miss the wettest event of them all – the Ain’t Misbehavin’ Pool Party – a co-ed shindig that turns up the heat as you cool off. augustapride.com
Hampton Roads Pride
Hampton Roads, Virginia
One of the more unique events that sets Hampton Roads Pride apart from other small-city parties is its Pridefest Boat Parade on the Norfolk Waterfront where local boaters can show their LGBT support by sea with a parade pennant on their vessel. Seamen from all across the area join the procession for a wet-and-wild weekend of making waves and promoting equality. If you’re more of a landlubber, keep your feet dry at the 4th Annual Pride Block Party and Pridefest 2015, featuring a performance by En Vogue.hamptonroadspride.org
July 25 & 26
Show Baltimore some love this summer (it sure could use it) by visiting Charm City’s annual Pride weekend – one of the oldest around at 40 years – which features myriad events, like a high-heel race through the Mount Vernon gayborhood; an all-day block party featuring performances by Martha Wash, Cazwell, and TS Madison; and one last after-party at Baltimore gay nightlife staple, Club Hippo, which will close its doors for good this fall. On Sunday, head to Druid Hill Park for a relaxing afternoon at an LGBT-positive festival with food, music, crafts, apparel, and more. baltimorepride.org
Charleston, South Carolina
July 25 to August 1
It’s only fitting that a city famous for its beloved Rainbow Row (a well-known block of colorful, attached homes) has an equally fabulous eight-day LGBT blowout. Charleston Pride rolls into the Palmetto State with a roller derby bout to bring more awareness to equal rights, and throughout the week revelers can take in film screenings, comedy nights, and other festivities. The culmination of the extended celebration is a parade, rally, and after-party, the latter of which features hunky gay crooner Steve Grand, Eryn Woods, DJ Trevor D, and other entertainers. charlestonpride.com
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world, including CNN.com, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, Instinct magazine, and Out.com, among many others. He splits his time between homes in New York City and the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox.