Pride parade brings out full spectrum of communities

V. Paul

A Golden Gopher and a purple dog were out on Hennepin Avenue Sunday amid thongs — er, throngs of people who showed up in drag — to celebrate the annual GLBT Pride Twin Cities Festival at Loring Park.
Drag royalty from Grand Forks and the Gay 90’s mixed with Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and other city and state officials in Sunday’s parade to wink, wave and wing key candies at cheering crowds.
The University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office and several other University groups participated in the weekend events, with information booths at the festival and a spot in the parade lineup.
“We really hope to be a presence that people see that the University of Minnesota does take very clear stands on being supportive of gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people,” said Susan Raffo with the programs office. “This is our celebration for queer people working at U of M. We’re hoping to connect with people who are interested in what we do.”
Several facets of the state’s gay community took part in the festival. The Minnesota Freedom Band — a Twin Cities nonprofit gay and lesbian concert and marching band — had a commanding presence, leading off the parade’s musical flair. It was also one of the festival’s community grand marshals.
Jamie Nabozny, who successfully sued his Wisconsin high school for failing to protect him from anti-gay assaults, and Robyne Robinson of Channel 9 News were also grand marshals.
Several community GLBT organizations participated to make their presence known, such as Rainbow Families, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, two organizations that focus on family issues in the GLBT community.
For University participants in the parade, it was a fascinating experience to be watched by people who they serve in their duties as members of campus organizations, said College of Liberal Arts sophomore Matthew J. Brauer, chairman of the University’s Queer Student Cultural Center.
“This is the most fabulous event I’ve had at my time at the University,” Brauer said. “A lot of queers showed up to show support not just for GLBT rights, but for diversity in general.”
Diversity’s colors filled the green spaces of Loring Park as nearly 300 booths sprawled along the park’s pathways. Festival-goers basked in Saturday’s 90-degree sun enjoying baked or fried tidbits and Popsicle treats, and reading information pamphlets from the Red Door Clinic and the Rape and Sexual Abuse Center. Participants collected safe-sex paraphernalia from almost every other booth and browsed through paintings and sculptures from area artists.
The whole event was intended to spur conversation about topics people were interested in, said University participants. The University’s GLBT alumni program hoped to sign more University graduates to its membership lists, while the University’s continuing education department hoped to let people know about GLBT studies and other classes offered at the University, said Beth Zemsky, director of the GLBT programs office.
The University’s program in sexual health spent most of its time recruiting people to participate in its seminars that explore sexual health in general.
“We’re trying to make people aware of positive sexuality and any barriers to their sexuality,” said John Gobby, a psychologist with the program.
Brad Becker of Minneapolis strolled through the park, amazed at how much the festival has grown since he started attending in 1972. He comes each year because it is a chance to meet up with friends from other cities and wade through the community’s treasure chest of booths and vendors, he said.
“I’m proud to be who you want to be,” Becker said. “It’s one weekend a year where you can be who you are — you can hold hands, whatever.”
Other people participated in the event simply because it is one of the state’s largest festivals. Werner Pavlovich of St. Paul was selling cast-iron trellises he designed and constructed with birds, flowers and candle holders inlaid within the frames.
Amanda Baribeau, a recent University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate in recreation, was one of the canoe instructors teaching festival goers the art of canoeing on Loring Lake. Eight people at a time in bright yellow life vests would circle around her as she would give her “paddle talk.”
“It’s really much more about having conversations and letting people know what we’re doing,” Raffo said.