MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- A decade ago, Diana Arnold never would have dreamed of publicly discussing her relationship with her now-wife, Melissa. The Middletown she knew then wouldn't allow it.
On Friday night, she took part in its first-ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride event alongside hundreds of enthusiastic attendees. Change comes, it seems, even to counties that have trended deep red since the dawn of the new millennium.
"It just makes my heart swell," Arnold said. "We had no idea it would get this big, 'cause it was all really last-minute. Now we know, and now we can make it even bigger next year."
June is LGBT Pride month, and some cities prepare their celebrations months in advance. Middletown's came together in two weeks, according to Arnold, thanks to a group of downtown small business owners.
Her wife, Melissa, who owns West Central Wine, was one of them. She and other organizers weren't sure how much of a draw a Pride event in Middletown might be, but they knew they wanted to support their community and one another.
The overwhelmingly positive response took them by surprise. Now, they're convinced Middletown has the support and the spirit to host Pride again.
"The city of Middletown has been so supportive of this, from the city manager to the chief of police," Triple Moon Coffee Company owner Heather Gibson, who also helped organize the event, said. "The mayor was here tonight. They have all been very supportive, so it's really been awesome."
Pride festivities continue Saturday morning in Cincinnati, where leaders will kick off a parade at 11. The parade route begins at Seventh Street and Central Avenue before ending along the river at Sawyer Point, where attendees can enjoy food, drinks, music and family-friendly activities until 9 p.m.