Gay pride parade attracts thousands

Liz Kohman

Goldy Gopher changed out of his usual maroon and gold attire and put on a rainbow T-shirt to march in the Ashley Rukes Pride Parade on Sunday.

Thousands watched as almost 200 groups celebrated gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride in Minneapolis’ largest parade.

The parade, running from Third Street and Hennepin Avenue to Loring Park, lasted more than two hours and was the most elaborate event in the “2001: A Pride Odyssey” festival organized by GLBT Pride/Twin Cities.

“I think it’s great to see the support it brings out,” said 24-year-old Ryan Shaw, who was watching the parade for the first time.

The parade usually draws the largest crowd for the festival, which lasts two days in Loring Park and features almost 400 vendors, three stages and three food courts.

In addition to food, music and vendors, this year’s festival featured a gay history pavilion and an area where games and booths geared toward families were clustered.

“The families come out,” said Travis Gislason, a University senior majoring in urban studies, who has watched the parade for several years. “It’s really important we as a country see that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders can raise a family, and when you’re here at the parade, you see that. I love the diversity,” he said.

Gislason also noted the importance of heterosexual support for the festival.

The event has grown since it began 29 years ago with an informal gathering in Loring Park, followed by a handful of individuals walking down Nicollet Mall with hand-made signs, said Bill Nienaber, the spokesman for GLBT Pride/Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis Park Police said about 76,000 people visited the park on Saturday alone.

Nienaber said approximately 200,000 people would attend the festival.

The most important part of the day for Nienaber was the freedom the event allowed. The weekend offered people – especially those from smaller, rural communities – the chance to be out of the closet and not worry about the reactions of family members, friends and employers, Nienaber said.

Many festival participants agreed the event offered them a chance to celebrate GLBT pride.

“Last year I went, and I really enjoyed the environment,” said Stacey Flute, a junior studying management information systems. “I just feel good to see people out and celebrating gay pride.”

B David Galt, the interim director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Program Office, said the best part of the Pride Festival was the support it offered.

“It’s the people, it’s the gathering, the support and solidarity. The affirmation that we are here and in large numbers,” Galt said.

The festival also demonstrates the diversity within the GLBT community and shows there is a place for everybody, said Galt.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office, along with a coalition of other University GLBT groups, had a table in Loring Park and marched in the parade.

While people came out to show support, they also came for the party.

“It’s an awesome, great time,” said Jenny Beck, a University junior studying clothing design.

 

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]