Fireworks burst high in the muggy Loring Park sky Sunday night while individuals, couples and entire families celebrated their freedom in more ways than one.
With the Fourth of July still a good two weeks away, Twin Cities residents still had much to celebrate last weekend at the 33rd annual Twin Cities GLBT Pride Celebration in Minneapolis.
And quite a few people found reason to celebrate.
GLBT Pride/Twin Cities, the nonprofit and volunteer-based group that organizes the events, estimates that approximately 421,000 people attended the many activities held this year, including an art show, cruise, festival, parade and block party.
Third largest in the nation
According to GLBT Pride/Twin Cities, the Twin Cities celebration is the third largest in the nation, behind only New York and San Francisco.
This year’s theme, Liberation in Progress, acknowledged civil rights gains in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community while still aiming to increase awareness and acceptance.
The celebration is scheduled annually on the weekend nearest to June 27-28, the dates of the infamous Stonewall riots and arrests in 1969 – events widely acknowledged as essential to the beginning of the U.S. gay rights movement.
Another important civil rights issue addressed this year was gay marriage. Several gay and lesbian couples walked in the parade under banners proclaiming the year they committed to being partners. The banners also listed the words “married in …” and a question mark, indicating that the arrangement was still not legally available to them.
At least one lesbian couple held hands and wore simple, white wedding dresses; other people wore T-shirts emblazoned with, “Marry Me!” in bold letters.
Several festival booths were also devoted to the issue, one urging people to sign a petition for legislation legalizing gay marriage and another arranged to function as a makeshift wedding chapel.
A University presence
Various University-affiliated organizations made appearances at the festival and parade during the weekend.
Students from the Queer Student Cultural Center distributed water balloons to overheated attendees at the festival, and the Medical School advertised its unique Program in Human Sexuality. At the parade, Radio K blared music while the “K” mascot greeted viewers.
Delta Lambda Phi, the University’s gay fraternity, marched in the parade and set up a festival booth. Its parade theme was Let’s Get Physical, and the brothers did aerobic exercises while wearing ’80s aerobic gear.
The booth made people aware that there is a national fraternity at the University for gay, bisexual and progressive men, said Tim Ortyl, Delta Lambda Phi president . The organization distributed its fall rush schedule to several potential pledges.
The Delta Lambda Phi booth also informed people about other ways to get involved in the GLBT community, through sports, activism or social clubs.
Ortyl said he feels the annual pride events are important on both a personal and community level.
“Pride is personally important to me because it is a very public demonstration of self-affirmation, that we are not alone and that we will not hide in closets,” he said.
Judging by the tremendous turnout at this year’s events, there is at least one time and place each year when it is acceptable for GLBT community members to come together in public and celebrate – with pride.