Excited about Pride this year? So are we! We caught up with Cameron Jay Harrelson, the immediate past president of Athens Pride & Queer Collective and the parade and festival organizer/director to get you all the details on how to have the best Pride experience possible!
What’s your favorite thing about pride month?
Pride month really allows our communities and our allies to do several things. It allows us to celebrate and honor our history, recognizing that Pride began as a riot against injustices. It allows us to recognize the progress we’ve made and the victories we have won through our collective fights for liberation. And, especially this year, it allows us a time to remind ourselves of the work we have left to do, that the fight for liberation is not over. This has been a troublesome year for LGBTQ+ communities, and Pride month allows us a moment to be together- as one- in the midst of it all.
How does pride make you feel?
Pride makes me feel loved, seen, and valued. For too long, I lived my life as an inauthentic version of myself. I was so terrified of who I was and the part of me who knew deep down I was gay. It was stumbling across an Athens Pride event nearly ten years ago that finally opened my eyes- and my heart- to not only others, but myself.
Which pride events are your favorite?
I love the parade! Having been on the board for nearly 6 years, it was truly a dream realized when we held the first one in 2022. It was the culmination of many years and dreams of leaders past that we were able to see the parade to fruition. I also love that while it is parade, it also turned into a march last year. A march for trans rights, for queer rights, for our youth and their parents. This is more than just an event, more than just a parade. It is a reminder of a movement that is alive and well in Athens-Clarke County.
What’s been your favorite part about being behind the scenes of pride this year?
My favorite part is definitely getting to work with our vendors and sponsors. Having the unique honor of being the parade and festival director for several years, I know the importance of maintaining relationships with our vendors and sponsors. The funds we raise are not simply used for an event once a year. Instead, these funds help us to run four support groups, provide resources to in-need queer folx, support other organizations and community partners, and ultimately affect change for our LGBTQ+ populations. Our vendor relationships also allows us to support queer artists, business owners, and organizations.
What are your top 3 pride parade essentials?
1) WATER! June is one of the hottest months of the year, and you can never be too hydrated in the sweltering heat!
2) Pride Attire! I always love to see the creative outfits that people come to pride events in. Not only is it a display of creativity, but also of individuality and personal expression.
3) Fans! Did I mention it would be hot?
What should someone who has never been to pride events wear to the parade?
Show us your pride! Come in what makes you feel like YOU. And…glitter and rainbows are always a plus!
What insider tips do you have for enjoying the pride parade?
I recommend coming out prior to the parades start time of 2pm to grab a bite to eat and hydrate prior to the start of the parade! This is a great way to also support our local businesses along the parade route who have shown their support either through sponsorship, events, or their inclusive nature.
Do you have a favorite Athens activity that feels inclusive? (doesn’t have to be pride or queer themed, but should feel welcoming)
In addition to Pride, I think Athens is really lucky to have a long list of welcoming, affirming events that happen annually. Some of my favorites are AthFest, Twilight, the MLK Day Parade, and Wild Rumpus! Most of these event organizers work with pride to advocate for our special events here in Athens-Clarke County