MURRAY — Community members donning bright colors and colorful signs could be seen winding their way through Murray Saturday as part of an inaugural Murray Pride event.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community were joined that morning by friends and family at the gates of Murray State University, where they walked along Olive Boulevard, 12th Street and Chestnut Street before stopping in Chestnut Park. There, participants partook in activities, listened to various speakers and celebrated individuality and inclusion within the community.
Organizers for the event estimated some 250 community members were in attendance. One of them was Paige Rogers, a Murray native who has been to various Pride events across the country. She said she was surprised and thrilled to see the turnout Saturday in her hometown.
“I am so excited this is the inaugural Pride March for Murray,” Rogers said. “I have been to Pride parades in New York and San Francisco and Louisville, and it was something I realized was probably never going to happen here, so I didn’t think much of it. Then, when all of this came together so quickly and seeing a turnout like this — it’s incredible.
“Being from small-town Kentucky, when coming out, I knew my friends would support me, but a lot of other people I didn’t think would. So seeing Murray has this much LGBTQ support is amazing and very humbling.”
Gale Cornelison was another Murray native who was walking Saturday. She said she was at the event to celebrate love in her community.
“I am here because I love people and I think we all matter, and I think we all should be proud of who we are and embrace who we are. So it is a celebration of life and I am really proud to be a part of this,” Cornelison said. “It is amazing. You live in a community and you know you are surrounded by love, but unfortunately, there are those people who have limits on their love. But it is nice to know in a setting like this, just walking down the street and seeing people applaud and wave, love prevails and love comes through and that is what really matters.”
Murray City Councilman Wesley Bolin was present at the Saturday event as well. He said he felt the event was a good representation of the city living up to its moniker of “Friendliest Town in America.”
“Part of living in the Friendliest Town in America is being friendly to everyone,” Bolin said. “I am really proud to live in a community that embraces everyone regardless of background, and I want Murray to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.
“It is really encouraging; I love to see people not only from Murray, but from all over western Kentucky, coming to Murray as a place they know they will feel appreciated. I want Murray to be a beacon for everyone to feel welcome and accepted.”
Not all members of the community came out on Saturday to offer their support, however. A small group of protestors representing the Concerned Christians of Calloway County held signs along the parade route on 12th Street as well as on Payne Street during the celebration at Chestnut Park.
The group of around four were holding signs, and distributing pamphlets. Blake Hughes said the group was there to protest sin and exercise their right to free speech.
“We are protesting sin,” Hughes said. “We like to keep a safe community for everyone, and to exercise our rights to freedom of speech.”