Hotter and hotter
Silver anniversary Pride outruns
Columbus--Like the ever-increasing temperatures attributed to global warming, Columbus Pride just gets hotter and hotter each year, especially in attendance. The 25th Columbus Pride was a memorable and lively celebration lasting four days with the march being accompanied by several street and block parties and musical shows galore.
Although it was cooler than in past years, the heat was still formidable, but the vibrant colors and vivid camaraderie visible on June 24 were truly a display of Pride unlike Columbus has ever seen.
According to Stonewall�s interim executive director Kellye Pinkleton, a crowd of over 100,000 was expected at the festival and early estimates were that the goal had been surpassed.
The parade line-up began at 11 am on Dennison Avenue on the west side of Goodale Park, along with the crowds of ComFest going on in the park the same weekend as Pride.
The march set off at 1 p.m. and it took a little over two hours for the parade of 5,620 marchers--almost 2,000 more than last year and breaking the 1998 record of 4,334--to conclude at Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus.
This year�s parade included activist groups like P-FLAG, Stonewall Columbus, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Ohio and Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition alongside bars and clubs like Wall Street, Q-Bar, Tradewinds and Somewhere Else.
Like in past years, there was a lot of support from religious groups and churches as they marched in the parade with banners and in priestly garb. In fact, this year, disproportionate to the total number of floats--70 in all, according to Pinkleton--the most were from religious groups preaching message of being one, being welcome and being loved by God. One of the most well received banners read �Separate Church and Hate.�
Pinkleton noted that Stonewall has seen an increased interest from GLBT-friendly churches and religious groups to �have a greater presence here.� The support from these groups seems directly proportional to or even outstripping the increasing levels of hate, homophobia and bigotry emerging from some parts of the religious and political right.
Groups from cities across Ohio were also represented in the parade including Newark, Toledo, Cincinnati, Dayton and Granville among others.
The parade marched through the Short North district in Columbus, past the convention center and the Ohio Statehouse before winding up its route through downtown on High Street. The route was packed with watchers and supporters all the way.
This year the usual protesters and religious zealots seemed to have been discouraged from turning up in large numbers. In addition, some angels had gathered in silent protest, hands and wings interlocked, in front of fundamentalist preachers opposite the Statehouse.
Imitating the protestors in the film The Laramie Project (about the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard) these silent angels wore rainbow smocks and large, white flowing wings. In this case, silence was definitely not consent to the hateful mumblings of a few.
The main stage entertainment included performances by the Columbus Gay Men�s Chorus and the Columbus Women�s Chorus, the Flaggots Ohio, the Capital City Pride Band and other local entertainers. The headliner group this year was the 1980s sensation Lisa Lisa.
In its 25th year, Columbus Pride finally had its first transgendered performer come to entertain the crowds.
Namili Bennett from Tucson, Arizona, said she had never been to Columbus before and that she �loved it here.� She has performed at Prides from D.C. and New York City to Seattle.
�The smaller ones, not that this is small,� she said, �seem more connected and it seems like this is more about community being together than about sponsorships and selling stuff.�
She said that crowds like the ones in Columbus, or the one in Allentown, Pennsylvania Pride, �appreciate the performers more.� Bennett�s message to the crowd was to �think outside the box.�
Eric Himan from Pittsburgh had just flown in from Atlanta�s Pride and has performed in Columbus before, although this was his first Pride show.
�It�s good to be back in Columbus,� he said. �This is huge. Its great having a lot of people in a small area so it�s not all spread out like at other Prides.� Himan said to Columbus, �It�s good to see you. Out!�
Openly lesbian Columbus councilmember Mary Jo Hudson was at hand at the rally after the march to deliver a proclamation for Pride from City Hall alongside Councilmember Mary Ellen O�Shaughnessy. Hudson said to the cheering crowd that she and City Council intend to �make this the best city to be gay in and to live in.�
Lynn Bowman of Equality Ohio urged the crowd to get active for this year�s elections and the ones in 2008 elections.
�We have to have a voice this year,� she said. �We didn�t have a voice in 2004. We have to plan so that we are not used again. We have to plan so that the truth be told about us and our families.�
Mayor Michael Coleman, who was an early contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nod before pulling out of the race, came out to thank the GLBT community �for being such an important part of the future of this city.�
��We are going to stand by you one hundred percent,� he promised.
Parade float judges voted for winners in three categories. Best Decorated went to Tradewinds bar�s Survivor-themed float made up like a tropical paradise; Best Themed went to the Grapevine bar�s float; and the Most Outrageous award was won by the flamboyantly colorful float of Somewhere Else bar with drag queens galore.
Stonewall Columbus always has a behemoth task in putting together Columbus� Pride. This year was particularly unique with no permanent executive director in place and with special events director Michael Dutcher retiring a few months ago.
�This is the smoothest it�s ever run,� Pinkleton said, �and we owe all things to our committees and our volunteers.�
Pinkleton seemed particularly proud that this year the family area had been expanded with �baby sign language classes, a balloon artist, face painters, baby sitters and every toy imaginable.� In the current political climate, after the marriage amendment to the Ohio constitution and rumblings about GLBT families possibly not being able to adopt or foster, queer families seemed to be out in larger numbers than ever before.
According to Pinkleton, this year�s Pride cost about $65,000 to put on. She was confident that sponsorship money and the suggested gate donation of $5 would cover the expenses. A bulk of the costs go to paying the Columbus Police Department to provide security and to set up facilities like the vendor tents and portable toilets. The headliner entertainers like Lisa Lisa and Eric Himan are also paid to perform.
The festival was offering HIV tests this year in addition to more aggressive education about safer sex.
Pinkleton and the rest of Stonewall will �take a few weeks off, then come back to evaluate this year�s Pride� and begin preparations for 2007. If the last few years have been any indicator, 2007 will require planning for even greater crowds and bigger and better things for the Columbus and Ohio GLBT communities.