This May 19 through 22, the city of Bedford, VA is having their first-ever Pride weekend. Located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Bedford is known for its rural beauty and main street charm. It’s also home to truly unique experiences like exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, touring Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, and relaxing at Smith Mountain Lake.

Bedford is also home to the National D-Day Memorial. Bedford lost more soldier residents  during WWII’s June 6, 1944, Normandy landings than any other American community. Author Alex Kershaw’s book The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-day Sacrifice acted as inspiration for the movie Saving Private Ryan. The movie's director, Steven Spielberg, even partially funded the memorial. One can also watch the film documentary “Bedford: The Town They Left Behind.”

We were lucky enough to speak with local resident and Bedford Pride co-creator John Boggess (he/him) about how Bedford Pride has come to be, and why he loves living in Bedford. * John Boggess (right) and husband Ryan (left)

It’s great to hear that Bedford Pride has joined the growing number of pride events and festivals in  Virginia. What’s the story behind you and your partners achieving this?

This started with conversations with the staff at Waukeshaw Development. Beale’s Brewery in Bedford is one of three Waukeshaw projects in Bedford, and they are a valuable partner in boosting the vitality of Bedford. They were 100% on board with Pride from the start.

There are a wide range of activities, spanning the weekend, at different locations in Bedford. Tell us about what’s happening, and where.

We’ve partnered with local businesses and organizations to offer different experiences for visitors each night, from Thursday, May 19 - Sunday, May 22. We are looking into a pride parade and festival for 2023. You can find our full, updated schedule of events on our website.

If you could share a Bedford itinerary for LGBTQ+ visitors, what experiences would you include?

I’m not sure how different that would be for a non-LGBTQ+ community member. Definitely stop at Beale’s Brewery. My husband Ryan is usually behind the bar and has a loyal following, allies and LGBTQ+, locals and visitors. The draws to Bedford are the outdoors and history. The National D-Day Memorial is a must, along with Poplar Forest, the Peaks of Otter, and great hiking, mountain bike trails, and disc golf courses. Another great brewery is Apocalypse Ale Works, and there are so many great wineries it’s hard to count! You can find them all through the Bedford Wine Trail.

What’s the best way to support Bedford Pride as an Ally, for those not a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Come enjoy the activities. Drag Brunch should be a blast, Goose Creek Studio will have thought-provoking content, ElectricCo Gallery and Bistro has lots for the senses, the open mic night at the Bower Center hopefully will be full of truth telling, and they have a major art exhibit ongoing. Honestly, the most powerful thing any ally can do is be publicly supportive of Pride, post about it on social media and say how proud you are that Bedford has this.

When you are traveling throughout Virginia, what are a few of your favorite places to stay, eat, shop, and play?

Virginia Beach was a big draw to get my Hoosier husband to make the move from the Midwest. That said, we seek out wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries across the Commonwealth. If a business is Black-owned or Woman-owned, we will try to add those to our itineraries. For example, the Ragland Mansion B&B is Petersburg is beyond amazing. Virginia Beach Winery was a great find. Our off days don’t sync anymore, so it’s more of a challenge, but a trip to far Southwest, especically to the Carter Family Fold home place, is on the list, too.