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July 13, 2012

Youngstown Pride comes back in full force

Youngstown--Pride in the Mahoning Valley was back in full force for its fourth iteration this year, a year after scheduling conflicts limited events to a Pride picnic.

The June 30 parade had 255 participants, up significantly from the first parade, held in 2010, the festival’s second year.

“There were, of course, the politicians present. Hey, it’s an election year,” joked Anita Davis, one of the coordinators of Youngstown Pride. “We also had a lot more small groups and individuals marching.”

“The festival is expanding in all directions,” she noted. “Our program guide reflects our expansion. We have an ad from the city’s largest black funeral home, a family-owned tow truck company to our first openly gay candidate for local elected office, Howard Markert. Our donors now include the DeBartolo Corporation and Staples as well as the Raymond Wean Foundation. We’ve not had that before.”

According to organizers, over 2,000 attended the festival, with over 50 booths, between vendors and non-profit organizations. The festival ran until 2 am, and featured the sultry sounds of “The Saxtress” Pamela Williams, who played Black, Gay and Proud in Cleveland several years ago.

Festival attendees were greeted by a rainbow flag flying on the city flagpole in Central Square, a first for the four-county area of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. They also saw the first public gay wedding ceremony in the area, with ten couples from Ohio and Pennsylvania tying the knot.

At midnight, a vigil was held at the festival in honor of three young gay people murdered in the area in the last two months: Brandy Rosine-Stevens, Ibn Shakoor and Michael Johnson.

The next day, the community picnic was held at B&O Station Park, coordinated by Pride Youngstown’s Youth Alliance, featuring entertainment by Big Ginge and the Nobodies, Face Card and U.N. Family Acts.

“It was a long, hot weekend, but the volunteers we had were real troupers and hung in there until the weekend festivities ended,” Davis said. “My hat goes off to all of them.”

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