Annual GLBT festival a source of pride for many in the Twin Cities

Elizabeth Cook

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in late August, Joshua James came to the University to finish his last year of college.

James, a recent University graduate, arrived on campus not knowing anyone and feeling lonely. But that changed when he met the brothers of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity that advertises itself as being for gay, bisexual and progressive men, on his second day on campus.

Delta Lambda Phi was just one of the 400 vendors and exhibits last weekend at the 34th annual Twin Cities Pride Festival in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

About 125,000 people marched in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade from Hennepin Avenue and Third Street South back to Loring Park.

The people included business representatives, city council members, drag queens and male cheerleaders.

Screams and shouts were heard throughout the entire parade, whether it was when Mayor R.T. Rybak ran through the street hugging people or for a group called genderBLUR, which walked with a 20-foot papier-mâché green drag queen holding a stiletto.

Delta Lambda Phi members also marched in the parade. James wore a rainbow flag like a cape and waved while his fraternity brothers danced along the street.

This year, between the festival and parade, 435,000 people attended, according to the event’s public relations director, Bill Nienaber.

One of the tables representing the University was the Queer Student Cultural Center.

Members gave out more than 1,000 hot pink “no homophobia” stickers along with pamphlets and contact information for the group.

Many stickers offered at the event advocated equal rights for gay people.

Vincent Staupe, the cultural center’s co-chairperson and a journalism junior, said that during the weekend parents came up for information to give to their children who plan to attend the University in the fall.

The goal of the center, along with Delta Lambda Phi and the GLBT Programs Office, was to have a visible presence for the University.

Anne Phibbs, systemwide director for the GLBT Programs Office, said she was happy to be part of one of the largest gay pride festivals in the country.

Part of the reason the group attended was to try to identify alumni, Phibbs said, “because it really sends a strong message that the University supports the GLBT (alumni).”

It’s important for a person to see that the place where they went to school, are going to school or are employed supports them, she said.

Even though the topic of gay marriage is hot right now, Nienaber said there were no protesters all weekend.

In past years there have been one or two standing along the perimeter of the park (they are banned from the event), or they are at the parade, but this year none was seen.

Nienaber said the weekend went well and that it was pleasing to see parade attendance increase.