Lots of color ... and pride

Festival and parade help buoy the confidence of local LGBT community

Rainbow shoes are seen during the Pride Parade and Festival on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 5:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 5:59 p.m.

It was a colorful display of pride. Some wore rainbow-colored wigs, others rainbow colored capes. Still others wore socks, skirts and scarves — all in the colors of the rainbow. Dogs donned rainbow bandanas, children carried colorful balloons.

The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida held its annual Pride festival, which was preceded by its 11th annual Pride Parade, at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza on Saturday.

Religious protesters also sought to express their views by disrupting the event and marching through the festival. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community, however, continued to celebrate, with most eventgoers ignoring the protesters.

The event was part of Gainesville Pride Days, a series of events that included an awards dinner, a movie at the Hippodrome Cinema and living histories that began on Sept. 21 and end today with a garden party at Spikes, a local gay bar.

The parade began at about noon at the intersection of West Seventh Street and University Avenue, and it continued until it reached the plaza. Advocacy and community groups, churches and religious organizations, and political organizations all marched in the parade.

The United Church of Gainesville had a "Wizard of Oz" themed float that featured rainbow paintings made by children from the church, along with the famous song "Over the Rainbow" wafting in the air. Those on the float depicted the Tin Man, a dog resembling Toto, and two Dorothys — one who skated alongside the float wearing ruby-red rollerblades.

They chanted numerous songs, including, "Love is a basic human right, equality with all our might!"

Participants in the parade beat on djembes, rattled maracas and banged small cymbals while onlookers — at some points three people deep along the road — cheered and took pictures and video.

Once the parade reached its destination, the festival began.

This year's event expanded by starting an hour earlier and included more vendors and performers — 13 musical acts, which performed from 1 to 6 p.m. — said Terry Fleming, co-president of the community center and festival organizer.

More than 100 vendors encircling the plaza — 29 more vendors than last year, Fleming said. The vendors included craft-sellers, politicians running for re-election, advocacy and political groups, and tents for children's arts and crafts.

Last year, about 5,000 people attended the festival, Fleming said.

"Every year it [has] expanded," he said.

Fleming, who is originally from a small town, said that events like these help foster the visibility of the LGBT community.

"It's very important to be visible," he said. "Folks in small towns, they don't know what the culture is, so they come to these events [and] they tie in with other people. They realize that there are other people like them. And it's important for that visibility for self-acceptance, [and] it's good for the health of the individual as well as the community."

At 1:40 p.m., organizers took the plaza's stage and Mayor Craig Lowe gave a short speech.

"We are a community that values every person and the contributions that they have to make to our city," Lowe said. "And that is what we want to project to the rest of the world."

Jenny Todd, of Marion County, who first attended in the Pride Festival in 2009, came Saturday with her friends Amanda Bateson and Raquel Torruella, both of whom attended for their first time.

Todd said that an event like this gives her a sense that there will be a more open future.

"It's coming along. In the early '90s, look where we were … look how far we've come — where, you know, we can walk hand-in-hand to an extent," she said.

For Bateson, the event was more about celebration and self-expression.

"There always going to be people who disagree," Bateson said. "The bigger that this event gets, the bigger the crowd is going to be that disagrees. So, it's really just being happy with yourself and accepting that."

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