By Denise Wright
Fusion staff writer
Thousands of people sporting colorful signs and banners will soon take over the streets of Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. Across the state, this summer’s Pride attendees will have a great deal to look forward to with events ranging from rallies and guest speakers to drag poker runs and softball games.
Jan Adams-Richards, Columbus Pride coordinator, says one weekend is simply not enough for “Columbus Pride ’09: Freedom,” which will host events throughout all of June.
The festivities will begin with an art exhibit Saturday, June 6. Other events include the 18-hole golf scramble event Fore! Pride, a 5K walk/run, art exhibits and panel discussions.
Adams-Richards says the festival will offer something for everyone. There will be a family area for those with children as well as the Pride Poker Run, a scavenger hunt of sorts in which motorcycle enthusiasts will ride to various bars and restaurants to pick up playing cards.
The main event, the Pride festival, kicks off Friday, June 19, at Goodale Park, instead of the usual Bicentennial Park, which is currently under construction.
But as always, the festival will include vendors, food and beverage stands and entertainment. Friday night’s performers include Trina Hamlin, Melissa Ferrick and Coyote Grace.
The Pride Rally, which will start at 11:30 a.m. on the Statehouse Lawn, will begin Saturday’s festivities. Speakers will include LGBT advocates and politicians such as Jennifer Brunner, Ohio Secretary of State; Marilyn Brown, Franklin County Commissioner; Eric Brown, Franklin County Probate Court Judge; Ohio Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy; and possibly Gov. Ted Strickland.
The Pride Parade will then step off at 1 p.m from the Statehouse. Adams-Richards says last year’s parade, which featured more than 150 entries, drew in an estimated crowd of 120,000.
Entertainment for that day’s festival will begin around 6 p.m. and will include performances by the Fabulous Johnson Brothers and Kat DeLuna.
The Pride festivities will conclude Sunday, June 21, with the Bat-N-Rouge drag softball game, which Adams-Richards says shouldn’t be missed.
“They go all out,” Adams-Richards says. “They’re in heels and full costumes. It’s hilarious.”
Individuals may register to participate or volunteer at the Columbus Pride Web site.
“It’s a great weekend for people to just come out and be themselves … Even today, a lot of people, in their everyday lives, can’t be who they really feel they are,” Adams-Richards says.
While Cleveland Pride is still working out the details of its summer festival, “Cleveland Pride ’09: Equality through Unity,” the goal for this year is clear.
“We’re trying to pull everyone in: transgenders, bisexuals, people of different colors, everyone,” says Chris Cheuvront, a representative with the organizing group. “We really want to gather the Cleveland gay community because it’s been so splintered in the past.”
The unifying weekend will kick off with the Pride Parade early Saturday, June 20. The parade will travel to Voinovich Bicentennial Park where vendors and local restaurants will offer a wide array of food, beverages and memorabilia.
Keeping with the theme of welcoming everyone, there will also be areas for families and senior citizens who wish to partake in the celebration.
The festival will feature a DJ as well as local and national live entertainment. Cheuvront says some of the acts are still being confirmed, but attendees can expect to see Diana Chittester; Infusion; Cleveland Kings & Girls; Rainbow Wranglers; hE said, (S)hE said; Rubber City Bombshells; and more.
Aside from the parade and festival, Cheuvront says the organization is working to pull together a cocktail party and silent auction Friday night.
Cheuvront says this year’s festival is especially important in bringing people together because it marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and it follows the passing of California’s Proposition 8, which restricts marriages to only opposite-sex couples.
He adds that although these events have created a huge “sore spot” nationwide, he thinks the new leadership of Cleveland Pride will put together a festival that will help heal by bringing people from all walks of life together.
Scotty Didier, communications volunteer for Dayton Pride Partnership 2009, says “United in Pride! Many Faces, One Community!” will hold all of its festivities during the first week of June, instead of later in the month.
Despite the change, the switch will, however, enable Dayton’s festival to act as the “premier kickoff” to the Midwest’s Pride season.
The festivities will open with the Pride Dinner on Wednesday, June 3, at Sinclair Community College. The dinner will feature keynote speaker Malcolm Lazin of the Equality Forum in Philadelphia and comedienne Poppy Champlin. According to Champlin’s Web site, www.poppycockprod.com, her stand-up routine mixes the “sweet grooving persona of Ellen DeGeneres with Denis Leary’s raunchy sarcasm.”
The events will continue with multiple screenings of “Saint of 9/11” at Neon Movies the following day.
On Friday, June 5, Pride Night on the Quadrant, an evening of shows, dancing and drinking, will be held between Third and Second street, adjacent to the LGBT Center and most of the Dayton bars.
The week concludes with the usual Pride Parade and rally on Saturday, June 6, beginning at 11 a.m. in Cooper Park. The rally will follow at Courthouse Square.