People walking in Corner Park
Ashland's pride parade starts in Corner Park on Aug. 26, 2023.

ASHLAND — Ashland’s third annual pride parade filled downtown with rainbow-colored flags and music on Saturday morning. 

A crowd of around 30 people showed up to participate in the parade. They took a route from Corner Park, down Main Street and then back to the park, walking the loop twice. 

A scene from Ashland’s Pride parade on Aug. 26, 2023. Around 30 people joined the parade, many donning rainbow flags or other pride flags of various hues.

Haley Barker and Haley Newhouse, the president and vice president of Ashland Pride, said planning for the parade and other events taking place during Ashland’s Pride weekend was underway for about a year. 

The weekend’s lineup featured Saturday’s parade and a full day of performances and vendors on Sunday. 

At Saturday’s parade, a number of people honked their horns and waved in support of those marching. Some people working in the downtown businesses came out to watch the parade as they walked by. One person yelled, “You’re beautiful!” out their car window at the people walking in the parade. 

Seth Emmons walked in the parade. He’s a dad, and he and his wife brought out their three children to march with them. 

“We believe all people are equal and deserving of love and respect,” Emmons said. 

He added those were values he wanted to pass on to his children. 

Sarah Reeves, another attendee of the event, said she came out in support of her daughter. 

“I’ve got her back 100%,” Reeves said. 

A mother and daughter walk in Ashland’s Pride parade on Aug. 26, 2023.

She said she’s a factory worker and doesn’t have much free time, but thought it was important to spend some of it walking in the Pride parade. Even though it was hot on Saturday morning, Reeves said it meant a lot for her to be out there with her daughter and two sons, who she said are allies for their sister. 

“I’m sure we’ve got people that don’t like it, but I don’t care,” Reeves said. “I’m going to support her and her friends even if they don’t got nobody. If they don’t have a mama, then I’m their mama.” 

She bought a pride flag her daughter donned during the parade.

Allie Blevins said her aunt is gay and her son recently came out. She’s the store manager at Sally Beauty Supply, and said that having Pride in Ashland was important, especially as a small town. 

“Even if you have one voice, at least that’s one voice for equality,” Blevins said. “And we’ve got 20 or 30.”

Blevins, Reeves and Emmons all said they would come back to Pride next year.

Newhouse and Barker, Ashland Pride’s leaders, said hosting Pride in Ashland is important.

“It cultivates a safe space for folks in our community who need it,” Newhouse said in an interview with Ashland Source on Friday. 

Attendees of Ashland’s Pride parade pose for a photo after finishing their first loop of the parade route on Aug. 26, 2023.

The pair shared that last year’s event received some hate. 

“That’s their right,” Barker said. “They have every right to their opinion. But when hatred and threats become a threat to our existence, that’s wrong.”

They view their work as an important effort in Ashland. They said last year there were young people in Ashland who had negative experiences with coming out. 

Ashland Pride helped with finding them a place to stay, getting them winter clothes and setting up a GoFundMe. 

“As much hate as we did receive, we also found support and love as well,” Newhouse said. 

The pair said this year fundraising efforts for Ashland’s Pride weekend featured a car wash in the parking lot of Burger King on Claremont Avenue for the first time. 

They added most of the funding to put on Pride comes from sponsorships from local businesses. Newhouse and Barker said Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which had a banner on Saturday, and Charles River Laboratories were some of this year’s largest sponsors.

The Pride by the Waters Edge event on Sunday will feature entertainers, vendors, nonprofits with information and resources, and voter registration. 

It’s going to be hosted at Ashland’s Waters Edge Event Center from noon to 6 p.m. 

It will also have local performers auctioning off private performances and a raffle. Most of the proceeds, according to Barker and Newhouse, will go toward hosting next year’s event.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...