What Does Pride Mean to Wheeling?

Pride on the Plaza was an absolute blast this year, full of amazing vendors, local musicians, and a wonderful sense of community. The Friendlier City Project certainly achieved its goal of once again creating a safe, welcoming, and loving space for the LGBTQ+ community in Wheeling. As June comes to a close, let’s look at the importance of Pride.

Pride started a riot (as YNST Magazine helped convey with their “Pride as Protest” gallery at this year’s pride event). The origins go back to the Stonewall Riot of 1969, which saw Queer patrons of a New York bar fighting back against police for discriminatory laws and arrests. A year later, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, the first Pride parades were held in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. While this was not the origin of LGBTQ+ activism or organizing, it was the birth of Pride events as we know them today.

I spent Pride celebrating and having a good time, but I also spent it being completely wowed. To see the progress that has been made, even since I was in high school, is awe-inspiring. I looked around at all the people there and decided I wanted to know how they felt about Pride as well. So, I asked. What follows are quotes and photos from Pride 2024, capturing what pride means to the citizens of Wheeling.


V, Will and A

“I feel Safe. It feel like it really allows us to show that we do have a voice and that queer people exist, and that they exist here.”

“It’s really comforting to see so many other people so open about their gender identity and their sexualities.”


Miles and Faith

“It is everything to me. We got married here. Having that space to be open and free, with everything that has happened to me in my past and with other people, is incredible. I want to make other people happy with what we’re doing and give them the courage to be themselves. I’m out, and my family is accepting, and I’m very happy and proud to be in the position to do this in front of other people who are like me. It’s just beautiful.”

What is extra beautiful is that Miles and Faith had just been married at Pride, a few hours before I talked to them!


Free Mom Hugs

“It makes me feel wonderful because it is an opportunity for everyone to understand that there’s a community here that accepts them for who they are as they are.” 

“I think that we need to remind people that people come in all different casings, and people are still people. I think that’s why we need to participate because it’s not right to say ‘you don’t matter’.”

As I walked away, I heard the beginning of a new conversation between one of the moms and someone in need of a hug: “Can I have a free mom hug?” Someone asked, and they were met with an enthusiastic; “YES! I’m so glad you came, are you having a good time?”


Veda, Mariel and Kiera

“It’s good to know that there’s a sense of community here and a place where we can have a safe space as queer people in a small town. It’s a safe space for people who need it.”

“I’m not actually from West Virginia and this is actually my first Pride event ever. I’ve never been to something like this, I didn’t know there were this many people who identified with this community in West Virginia. It’s so cool to see everyone coming out to support each other.”

“Coming here and seeing all these people, it makes me kind of emotional. Seeing all these people here, coming and supporting this, especially the Free Mom Hugs, I think that is just the sweetest thing in the world. It just makes me really happy, I love coming here.’

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“It’s so important to me to have events like these because we have people of all ages and creeds and backgrounds all coming together to celebrate community and safety and togetherness LGBTQ+ culture.”


Andrea and Z

“We live in Norway, we are on vacation here. But it’s great to see. From an international perspective, you hear a lot of hate about pride, and it’s very nice to see a lot of people gathered.”


“It means everything. It’s just absolutely incredible.”



“This is my first pride I’ve ever actually been to and it’s like having a sense of freedom. Being able to actually interact with those I relate to, I think it’s amazing. You don’t have to be gay or anything to be able to enjoy this, to be a part of the community.”


John and Emily

“It’s nice to know that there’s a big community here of like-minded people. We can be out there like this, and no one is being harassed or criticized. There’s so many people here, it’s nonstop, and everyone is so nice and friendly.” 

“I think it’s really exciting. I’ve seen people, coworkers or people from the Wheeling community that I was not expecting to see here. That’s exciting to see, to see them so excited about it. That means a lot. “



“It feels like we’re a city on the up, we’re not stagnant.” 



“It’s cool to finally see some change, to see some color.”

Pride events are not over! On Friday, June 28, The Friendlier City Project is hosting an End of Pride Month Happy hour at Waterfront Hall.  A special Pride cocktail, rumored to be fruity, summery, and delicious, may or may not debut.  I’m also almost certain more fun events will come from The Friendlier City Project. If you want to see more from Pride’s past, check out this video from Wheeling Heritage Media, and have a happy pride!


• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.