Columbus--Sweltering heat in the mid-90s dampened the 24th annual Pride celebrations only a bit, but it was hard to suppress the vibrant colors and vivid camaraderie visible on June 25.
Organizers said that the 2005 Pride Festival in Columbus broke the record set by last year�s festivities, which reportedly were attended by 80,000 people.
The parade line-up began at 11 am on Dennison Avenue on the west side of Goodale Park. As the floats and marchers gathered, the Columbus Flaggots, a flag-waving performance ensemble, practiced their parade routines, adding color to the pre-march festivities. Also practicing their parade routines were the Capital Pride Band, a marching band in its third year.
Sean Mosely, who works for the Columbus AIDS Task Force, prepared the organization�s float, centered around the theme of a �love boat.�
�We�re enlisting all seamen,� Mosely said, �because we want to make sure that everyone gets tested. Make sure you�re shipshape, stay strong and stay safe.�
The march set off from Goodale Park at 1 p.m. and it took a little over two hours for the parade to conclude at Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus.
This year�s parade included many activist groups like P-FLAG and the parade and festival sponsors, Stonewall Columbus. The Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition joined with 80 marchers, and the Human Rights Campaign brought over 200 members, carrying a large flag with the group�s equal-sign logo. Local bars and clubs like Wall Street, Pyramid, Blondies and Garrett�s Saloon added to the festivities. Blondie�s had about 130 people in their contingent and Wall Street had 80.
The whole parade had 3,758 marchers, down a bit from last year, possibly because the heat led some people to go directly to the festival.
Like in past years, there was a lot of support from religious groups and churches as they marched in the parade. One of the most well received banners read �Separate Church and Hate.�
The Lambda Car Club cruised along in 17 classic cars and trucks, mostly from the mid-20th century.
Groups from other cities across Ohio were also represented in the parade including Newark, Toledo, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Granville, amongst others.
The Queen City Rainbow Band from Cincinnati and the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay-Allies Marching Band collaborated to march in the parade, playing tunes to entertain the thousands of people gathered along the route.
Travis Hatfield with the Queen City band said that he was �happy to be part of the Columbus pride events.� Fred Martens, also with the band, said that the idea of gay and allied marching bands was �a growing international movement.�
The parade marched through the Short North district in Columbus, past the convention center and the Statehouse before winding up its route through downtown on High Street.
The route was packed with watchers and supporters all the way. Small groups of fundamentalist naysayers gathered north of the Statehouse and at the Convention Center.
The co-chairs for this year�s Pride were Michael Dutcher and Sandy Thomas.
Dutcher, Stonewall�s director of operations and special events, hoped at the parade lineup that �we will break the attendance record with over one hundred thousand attendees� at the Bicentennial Park festival.
After speaking with the Columbus Police on June 29, Dutcher said that this had largely come true.
�Not only have we surpassed all parade and festival attendance records for Stonewall Columbus Pride but hit our goal of nearly 100,000 people in attendance,� he said in an e-mail.
�The day was very hot and there were no major incidents at all,� Dutcher added. �Stonewall Columbus staff, board and Pride committee could not be more happy with the results and support of the community for Stonewall Columbus Pride Holiday 2005.�
In organizing this year�s festivities, Dutcher said that the biggest challenge was �the growth of the festival and getting enough volunteers together to make sure everything goes smoothly.�
This year the number of booths at the festival was approximately 60, stretching north on Civic Center Drive almost to Broad Street. The entertainment went on until around 7 p.m. when thunderstorms swept across the city.
The main stage entertainment included the Columbus Gay Men�s Chorus, the Flaggots, the Capital City Pride Band, and other local performers. The headliner group this year was the rock band Betty.
The Bicentennial Park stage was emceed by drag diva Mary Ann Brandt and Marshall McPeek, out newsman for WCMH Channel 4 in Columbus. Brandt said that she was glad to be there because Pride was �a great time to see people.�
�It�s like a family reunion and a wonderful celebration,� Brandt said, adding that by next year�s Pride it would be great �if we could make more things happen for our community. We are already strong, but we need to work harder to make true equality a reality. It takes a lot of folks to do so.�
McPeek said that Pride�s most important aspect was �bringing people together.�
�This is particularly important for anyone struggling with coming out, because once they see all these people it becomes obvious that they are not alone,� he noted. �We all have the right and responsibility to be who we truly are.�
McPeek, like Brandt, hoped that by next year�s Pride, �the community will support itself even more and not be splintered into so many sub-groups.�
�We need to come together as a single, unified community and need acceptance from inside just as much as we need it from the outside,� he said.
Columbus City Council member Mary Jo Hudson, who is campaigning to keep her seat this year, was at hand at the rally after the march to introduce Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman who was accompanied by his wife Frankie.
Coleman is seeking the Democratic nomination for next year�s gubernatorial race.
�As governor of Ohio,� he said, �I will welcome you all to the state of Ohio.�
He presented Stonewall board president Donna Williams with a proclamation declaring June 25 �Pride Day in the City of Columbus.�
Speaking to the Gay People�s Chronicle after his speech, Coleman said that, �Equality was something we need.�
He clarified that he doesn�t support gay marriage but is in favor of civil unions. He said that he disagreed with recent moves in Ohio to prevent GLBT individuals and families from adoption and parenting privileges.
�We need equal rights for all folk,� he concluded.
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