Project Horizon hosts annual Pride Festival

The colorful event for young and old featured a parade, drag show and other activities


Catherine McKean

QLA tabled at Project Horizon’s Pride Festival.

Lea Borner

On Saturday, Oct. 2, Project Horizon hosted its third annual Pride Festival at Hopkins Green. The event was funded by United Way of Rockbridge, free and open to the public.

The festival kicked off with a parade, which started at the park and continued through Lexington’s downtown. Participants held banners and wore pride flags. 

LGBTQ+ groups and ally groups from the area joined the march through town to represent and support the queer community in this region. Groups that particpated incuded the Queer Liberation Alliance, Sexuality and Gender Awarness Club, Lexington Pride, Sexual Health Awareness Group, SPEAK, Lexington Democrats, 50 Ways Rockbridge and Community Anti-Racism Effort Rockbridge. 

Groups set up booths in the park, offering information sheets on their organizations and upcoming events, stickers and other free goodies. 

“I love the festival,” said Rosie Rao, ’25, who participated in the event. “You really feel engaged.”

Participants ate tacos from a local food truck and enjoyed snow cones, face painting, a pride banner to sign and a photo booth.

People distributed colorful necklaces and stickers. Children and adults used large bubble wands set up in the center of the park and made the event even more colorful. A female attendee even gave free hugs to anyone who wanted some love.

Mikhala Stafford, campus services coordinator for Project Horizon, said that high attendance was one goal of the event.

“We really want to attract as many families as we can,” Stafford said. “I think that it’s really, really good to try to be supportive of queer people of all ages.”

Another highlight was the drag performance by the Beer Babes, a drag company from Fredericksburg that was founded in 2018.

Bellamy D. Starr, drag performer and founder of the Beer Babes, joked and moderated throughout the afternoon. She spoke openly about her drag performances and weight. And the songs she used for her performance all sent the same message: encouragement to be your true self and be proud of it.

“Under-boob sweat is a thing, especially when you have silicon sitting on your chest,” she said. 

Starr also emphasized the importance of supporting one another. 

“This wouldn’t be possible without you guys,” she said. “Be there for each other because you never know what somebody is going through, so just be nice, say hi,” 

To involve her audience, she chose five people to dance on stage together. 

Afterwards, Dasani C. Starr, another drag queen of the Beer Babes, danced for the audience to  songs with similar meaning, including “Scars To Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara.

Attendees had the chance to participate in a “Best Dressed in Pride Attire Contest” judged  by the drag queens. The event happened in conjunction with the Project Horizon Speak-out event on Oct. 10 at Good Shepard Church, which gave people the opportunity to share their stories more privately. 

“We wanted to create a safe and supportive space that is not quite as high energy as the festival,” said Stafford. 

The festival also kicked off Washington and Lee’s Pride Week, hosted by the Queer Liberation Alliance, the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, and the LGBTQ Peer Counselors.

It’s important that there is trust between in LGBTQ+ community in Rockbridge and organizations like Project Horizon, Stafford said.

“Especially with an agency such as Project Horizon that deals with such sensitive content, we ask people to be very vulnerable with us,” Stafford said. “We also want to have venues where we can celebrate and can feel that people are feeling empowered and liberated and able to express themselves openly.”