'All about awareness' Pride 2022 event in Johnstown

·2 min read

Jul. 3—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — LGBTQ+ community members and their supporters gathered at Roxbury Park on Saturday to discuss issues affecting them, share some camaraderie, create music, dance, and, in some cases, humorously hit each other in the face with whipped cream pies.

It was all part of Laurel Highlands Safe Haven's Pride 2022 event.

Groups, such as the Unity Coalition of the Southern Alleghenies, passed out information about their causes. Queen-Poetri Dozier made abstract spray-paint pictures.

And, for a $1 donation to support next year's event, attendees could pie-face a volunteer.

"We want to just bring awareness to that everybody, no matter who they are, what they believe in, who they love, they should be accepted," said Chloé Virga, who helped Laurel Highlands Safe Haven organize the gathering.

"We're here just to bring a safe space, a safe haven, which our name is. We want to make sure that just everybody can come, be themselves, don't have to worry about any judgment. It's a judgment-free zone."

Children's events took place in the afternoon, with more grown-up activities occurring later in the day.

"I just love seeing the children, and the families come out, and enjoy themselves, and love everybody and just show everybody love and acceptance of everybody," Virga said. "I feel like today was very great when it comes to that."

Dozier was passing through Johnstown's Roxbury neighborhood, saw the activity and decided to join.

"I was actually just driving down the street, happening to be wearing my rainbow shirt, and I always keep my art stuff in the car," Dozier said. "So I figured, why not? I see a bunch of rainbows, I'm like a leprechaun. I have to chase them. I figured why not bring some art to the community because what's more colorful than a painting?"

Rachel Allen, a Unity Coalition of the Southern Alleghenies member, played music and talked with attendees about her organization.

"It's good to be in a community with people that are celebrating life, celebrating their identities," Allen said. "The Unity Coalition, we are for everyone feeling safe in their bodies and contributing to our community. This is a really lovely, peaceful, happy, joyful event, so we're happy to be a part of it."

Pride of Somerset County members also participated in advance of their own Somerset Pride 2022 event at Alexis Park, located in Somerset, on July 31.

"It's all about awareness, and it's about Johnstown having a successful pride event," Pride of Somerset County founder Alexis Zinovenko said. "We want to make sure they have it each and every year."