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July 4, 2008

Cleveland and Columbus to swap Pride dates next year

Cleveland--Pride festivals in Cleveland and Columbus will switch weekends next year, making Cleveland’s the final Ohio celebration in June 2009.

Columbus Pride will be a week earlier, on June 20. Because of construction at the festival’s usual Bicentennial Park site, the 2009 event will be held at Goodale Park, traditionally the parade’s stepoff point. The date change is to avoid conflict with ComFest, which fills much of Goodale on the last Saturday in June.

To prevent unnecessary competition, Cleveland Pride will move later, from June 20 to June 27.

“We currently have a request in to the city of Cleveland for the following week,” said Cleveland Pride board president Todd Saporito.

He is optimistic the date change will be approved, although Voinovich Park’s transition from city to Port Authority control may hold up a response.

This year’s Cleveland LGBT Pride festival, which started out tens of thousands of dollars in debt, may have actually been aided by its rocky beginning and rainy end.

In January, the executive committee went through a slate of reductions to expenses, cutting about $60,000 from the budget.

“For someone who came to Pride, almost everything was happening the same, but we spent little money on it,” Saporito said.

They did not have an assistant Pride coordinator contracted for the year, and many of the performers donated their talents or reduced their fees.

“Usually we pay them out of the gate, after the fact, and this one time only, we were able to pay them before the festival,” he said.

He insisted, “This was the year the community took ownership of Pride.” He said that they had gone to the community for help, and they stepped up and accepted the challenge.

“The community responded by bringing unprecedented dollars to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “The cool thing about the festival this year was we had a lot of people from various sectors of the community coming to the table--Tina Haddad sponsored bringing Bitch and Ferron in, the Cleveland Kings and TransFamily fundraising for Josh Klipp.”

Saporito and other board members were especially pleased with the strong line-up of performers from Northeast Ohio, which included former American Idol contestant Melissa “Cha Cha” Figueroa, rock band Audiblethread, Oberlin College faculty Backbone, Cleveland Heights’ titanic trio Early Girl, cover masters Jane Deans, Mary Player and Swank’s sultry sounds, with many others.

“Local bands are always expected to donate their talents to Pride festivals, and I don’t think they get thanked nearly as much as they deserve,” Saporito enthused. “They promoted the festival to their fans and gave great performances, and really made Pride the great day that it was.”

Those acts also contributed to the diversity of the crowd enjoying the festival. Saporito pointed out that Cha Cha’s promotion of the show to her fans, coupled with outreach through the Black, Gay and Proud committee, resulted in what is estimated as the largest African American turnout for Cleveland Pride.

Saporito also said that it was the largest amount of LGBT and allied youth in recent memory, partially due to the campus outreach and online social networking of board member David Essi, a student at John Carroll University.

He estimated that one-quarter of volunteers were 25 years old or younger.

Even though a rain and windstorm brought the festivities to an early end at 5:10 pm, people were unwilling to call it quits.

“We had more people heading towards spaces to ride out the rain,” Saporito recalled. “I think we had 300 people under the beer tent during the monsoon, partying. They’re laughing, they’re drinking their beer, they’re still buying beer.”

“It was one big party under that tent,” he continued. “The performance stage was packed all day, even during the monsoon.”

Even with the deleterious effects of the storm, Pride will prosper. The board took out standard rain insurance, which kicks in if a half-inch of precipitation falls, and paid a small amount extra for “weather watch,” which measures the rainfall at the festival site, instead of the nearest National Weather Service station.

That slight added expense may well have paid off in a major way. The nearest reporting station is Burke Lakefront Airport a half-mile away, which registered 0.4 of rain, just shy of that half-inch threshold. Even though Hopkins Airport showed 1.3 inches, the insurance would have gone with Burke’s figure, were it not for that “weather watch” feature. So, the 0.9 inches that fell on Voinovich Park was “far above what was insured for,” Saporito said.


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