These Small Towns Are Packing a Big Punch for Their Pride Celebrations

Discover the joyous parades, community gatherings, and inclusive festivals in places you might not expect.

Ruben Bonilla Gonzalo/Moment/Getty Images

After the past couple of years saw festivals shift to virtual events—or canceled entirely—Pride celebrations are sure to be bigger, bolder, and brighter than ever this year. While iconic queer meccas like San Francisco and New York City will always be heavy-hitters for Pride festivities, it’s not just the major metropolises that are rolling out the metaphorical rainbow carpet this summer.

Across the country, in states both red and blue, small towns are proudly waving rainbow flags for Pride events all their own, hosting joyous parades, community gatherings, and inclusive festivals in places you might not expect. It’s smaller towns like these that prove there’s love and diversity to be found—and celebrated—in every pocket of the country. From a quiet Florida island celebrating its newly established Pride festival to an Alaskan town that’s all about disco and barbecue, here are six small towns going big for Pride this year.

Combine glacier hikes and drag shows in Seward, Alaska

June 3-5
Seward, Alaska: Come for the puffins, stay for the Pride. One hundred and twenty miles south of Anchorage, the tiny coastal hamlet is mostly known for its wildlife, its glaciers, and as the gateway to nearby Kenai Fjords National Park, but beyond the breathtaking natural beauty, the community celebrates inner beauty at its annual Pride festival. Held from June 3-5, and starting with its first annual parade from the Wellington Pavilion at 1 pm, it’s one of the most surprisingly robust Prides in the nation.

For a town with about 3,000 residents, Seward goes big with unique, inclusive events, including a glacier hike, a Pride cruise, a drag show at Yukon Bar, and an all-ages silent and sober disco party. It all concludes with a community barbecue at noon on June 5, with free eats, games, merchandise (like sweatshirts proclaiming “Protect Trans Kids”), and resources for the LGBTQIA+ community. Alaska isn’t exactly known as a queer destination, which is what makes festivals like this such a heartwarming celebration—and an affirming reminder that #loveislove, even in communities where porpoises outpopulate people. 

Dance with drag queens and kings in Paducah, Kentucky

June 4
Nestled in the western nexus of Kentucky, at the southern tip of Illinois, the riverside town of Paducah is an unassuming—and totally unexpected—place to find a robust Pride festival filled with floats, drag queens and kings, and rainbow flags. The small city, home to quaint art galleries and the only all-lesbian film festival in the country, is the tiniest blue bubble—a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ residents and visitors alike, thanks to its Fairness ordinance, a policy that protects queer community members from discrimination in employment and housing.

Paducah Pride, then, shines bright with live music, food vendors, and performances all day on June 4. This year’s headliner is LaLa Ri, Miss Congeniality from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, who will be performing and hosting meet-and-greets at The Johnson Bar. Other performers will hit the downtown stage throughout the day, culminating with the crowning of Mr., Miss, and Mz. Paducah PrideFest 2022.  

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Celebrate Pride, island-style, in Fernandina Beach, Florida

June 11
Between major out-and-proud cities like Miami and famously queer communities like Wilton Manors, Florida has no shortage of well-trod destinations for Pride. But beyond South Beach, there’s a much smaller and quieter island option hosting a more intimate celebration of its own in June. On Amelia Island, the northernmost barrier island in Florida, the small city of Fernandina Beach is bringing back its Pride festival for the first time since its inaugural outing in 2019. Northeast Florida tends to be much more conservative than, say, South Florida, which is why a designated Pride festival for the local LGBTQIA+ community—following the first time a Pride flag was flown over city hall in 2018—is an important step toward inclusion and visibility.

Held in Central Park, the festival kicks off with a parade at 10 am on June 11, followed by live music, food trucks, and artisan vendors selling everything from handmade soap to sunglasses. The festival will be followed by drag brunch at the Marriott Courtyard on June 12 and youth Rainbow Camp on June 20-24, a day camp at the New Vision Congregational United Church of Christ providing a safe space to have fun, feel seen, and connect with community. 

Support Black Pride and Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama

June 16-19
As a pivotal setting in the Civil Rights movement, Selma, Alabama, has long held an important, singular place in American history—something the town proudly continues to celebrate and honor. One such celebration is Selma’s annual Black Pride, held to emphasize diversity and support one of the most marginalized communities in the country (Black transgender and gender-nonconforming people experience the highest levels of discrimination in the country).

The three-day festival is organized by The Knights and Orchids Society Inc, whose mission is to provide health and wellness resources for LGBTQIA+ Black people in Selma and the surrounding Alabama communities. Following its founding in 2012, it became the first AIDS Service Organization in the state, and it’s remained at the forefront of visibility and progress ever since, using Black Pride as both a festival and a means to raise awareness and resources. By hosting a festival filled with vendors, drag performances, and music mere steps from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site where peaceful protesters were attacked by police in what’s come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” Selma’s Black Pride magnifies the importance of inclusion for communities far too often sidelined by white cis people. 

Come for the Prada, stay for the Pride in Marfa, Texas

June 17-19
Known mostly for its twee inns, hip galleries, and offbeat Prada stores in the middle of the West Texas desert, there’s much more to Marfa than roadside Instagram moments. The tiny town, with a scant population of around 2,000, has emerged as a cultural oasis known for its food and art, spotlighting indie artists from all walks of life, so it’s only fitting that this hip haven for creatives is now home to a danceable Pride fest all its own.

Held from June 17-19, this year’s Pride turns Marfa into a mecca for queer travelers in an otherwise remote locale in far West Texas. It kicks off with a music-filled welcome party at Planet Marfa, followed by a family-friendly block party the next morning at the pastel-hued Marfa Courthouse, complete with drag bingo, dancing, and LGBTQIA+ health resources. Then, get dolled up for a queer and trans dance party at The Sentinel from 8 pm until 1 am, before it all culminates with a mimosa-splashed drag brunch at El Cosmico on June 19. 

Follow the rainbow to ’90s dance parties in Bangor, Maine

June 25
When it comes to queer culture in Maine, Portland tends to take the spotlight as the most metropolitan pocket in an otherwise remote state. But two hours northeast, the beautiful, tree-filled town of Bangor has blossomed into an inclusive bastion worth the extra mileage. Although the small city has historically been known as a timber hub, as exemplified by the giant Paul Bunyan statue in the middle of town, now it’s a hub for New England Pride. Especially with the dissolution of Boston Pride, Bangor helps fill a much-needed niche in the Northeast, minus the crowds and traffic. The 30th annual event takes place on June 25 in West Market Square and Norumbega Park, with a drag show and ’90s-themed dance party to kick things off the night before at the Bangor Arts Exchange. 

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Matt Kirouac is a travel writer with a passion for national parks, Disney, and food. He's the co-founder and co-host of Hello Ranger, a national parks community blog, podcast, and app. Follow him on IG @mattkirouacofficial