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Wheeling hosting first Ohio Valley Pride Festival on Saturday

By CASEY JUNKINS

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — While working at the bar known as the O-Zone on Main Street several years ago, Jack Carbasho never thought Wheeling leaders would pass anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Organizers prepare for the Ohio Valley Pride Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday at Wheeling’s Heritage Port. From left are Jack Carbasho, Jeff Foster, Norman Galownia, Wendy Michael, Tyler Cox and Robert Fisher.
(Photo by Casey Jenkins)
About seven months after city council members voted 7-0 to enact this rule, Carbasho and his fellow organizers will hold the inaugural Ohio Valley Pride Festival, set this weekend at Heritage Port.

“Honestly, I never thought we would be able to do this here,” Carbasho said. “The city has been very, very nice to us.”

Mayor Glenn Elliott and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said city officials played no direct role in organizing the event, which is scheduled to run noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

“But it would be nice to hear that it’s at least in part because they are encouraged by city council’s actions late last year to provide protections against employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Elliott said.

Carbasho agreed.

“That certainly made it a lot easier to do something like this. We feel that is very important,”he said. “We thank them for their consideration.”

As for what the free festival will bring to Heritage Port, Carbasho said there will be “drag shows,” in addition to other forms of entertainment.

“We’ll have some typical festival vendors, food vendors, craft vendors and beer,” he said.

Organizers are not sure how large of a crowd to anticipate, but said they have gotten interest from those at least as far away as Columbus and Pittsburgh.

“Just come down and have a good time,” fellow organizer Jeff Foster said.

As part of the festival, Carbasho said there will be a “pride march” along Water Street, starting at WesBanco Arena and moving north, at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Organizers said holding the event on the fifth weekend of July could present a problem if there are future festivals because the month typically only has four weekends.

“We’re not yet sure how it’s going to work out next year,” Carbasho said. “Let’s just try to have a good year this year.”

Thalman said he wishes Carbasho and the other festival organizers well, while adding the event further showcases Wheeling as a progressive city that celebrates diversity.

“I think Wheeling has and will continue to make progress in becoming a more open and accepting city.

“This is not only the right thing from a moral standpoint, it is also something young people today care about when they are deciding where to live,” Thalman added.

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