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September 9, 2011

First Pride parade in a dozen years

Toledo procession adds to second annual Pride festival

Toledo--Northwest Ohio saw its first Pride parade in over a dozen years on August 27, led by grand marshals Hershae Chocolatae and Toledo councilor Steve Steel.

The parade set off at 2 pm from Washington and St. Clair, making its way to Promenade Park on the banks of the Maumee River, where it let out into the Community Connection Carnival.

This year’s Toledo Pride saw the first gay pride parade in the city since 1998. The Glass City had a series of Pride parades beginning in 1995 and ending three years later.

Rick Cornett, a volunteer with Toledo Pride who has been instrumental in connecting the Toledo LGBT community with its local media, especially the Toledo Free Press, was almost euphoric following the second Toledo Pride Festival and its first parade in over a decade.

“It was quite long and included schools, church groups, political figures, corporate sponsors, the Toledo Free Press, gay bars, support groups, et cetera,” he said of the parade. “The streets were lined with young and old people supporting the local LGBT community. It was so nice to see parents out with gay children and entire families.”

“I was honored and proud to take my mother with me to both the parade and festival,” Cornett continued.

Perhaps most notably, the parade and festival had no anti-gay protesters, which is almost unheard of in Ohio LGBT Pride events.

Cornett notes that the event’s overall success is most certainly due to the people involved.

“I think overall both the parade and festival went very, very well,” he noted. “It was well planned out and organized by the committee and all the volunteers who worked it.”

Cornett, like many others, volunteered for this year’s festival, but wants to take a more prominent role in upcoming events.

“I served as a volunteer and hope to join the official committee soon,” he said.

Next year’s event will be held on August 25, and planning meetings will begin early in the new year. Anyone interested in being involved, whether it be as a volunteer, on the board, as a vendor or entertainer, can go to www.toledopride.com.

“It was so liberating to see so many people come together as one and celebrate the spirit, equal rights and unity of the Toledo gay community,” Cornett said.

The parade and festival showed that unity, put on by the combination of the Pride of Toledo Foundation, Equality Toledo and Outskirts bar. Cornett is no stranger to being involved with LGBT groups and events in the city, having spent years helping organize the Holiday with Heart charity dinners in December.

In addition to the board and volunteers, Toledo Pride’s community connection carnival was graced by dozens of entertainers, ranging from internationally-known singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bitch to drag performers like the Bois with Outskirts and Blayke Shooter, Makayla Sinclaire Styles, Amber Stone, Thunderpussy, Deja D. Dellataro and musical acts Kyle White, Spectrum, No Excuses, the Shiz, What’s Next, Arctic Clam and Shelly McWulf.

Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the entertainment line-up was the amount of talent on the Pride committee. Headed by Outskirts co-owner Lexi Staples, her friend Torie Thorne served as parade coordinator. Sherry Tripepi, the Community Connection Carnival coordinator, has facilitated support groups and been involved pretty much everywhere the LGBT community has been in Toledo for years.

University of Toledo campus LGBT activist Gina Vidal was the entertainment coordinator, and Kelly Heuss, media and communications coordinator, also runs Outlines Toledo. Sponsorship coordinator and communications co-coordinator Emily Hickey went to her first Pride celebration in Columbus last year, and wanted to bring that feeling back to Northwest Ohio, while volunteer coordinator Brent Rabie has now served on the committee for both of the revivified Toledo Pride celebrations.

Toledo’s was not the only late-summer Pride event in Ohio. The previous evening saw Youngstown’s third annual LGBT Pride at B&O Station Banquet Center and Park, featuring two entertainment stages.

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