Pittsburgh celebrating 30 years of gay pride

Pittsburgh will mark 30 years of celebrating gay pride with a parade and street festival June 21.

                The Pride Parade will form at 10am at Westminster Place in Shadyside. Stepping off promptly at 11am, marchers will follow a route through the streets of Shadyside to the 5800 block of Ellsworth Avenue, the site of PrideFest activities for the third year. The event will run from noon to 6pm.

                Kevin Cox, chair of the PrideFest Committee, told Out that changing the location of PrideFest from Schenley Park to Ellsworth Avenue three years ago has drawn “a lot of positive response” and that the street-fair atmosphere has earned praise from many people, including a number of Shadyside businesses as well as city officials.

                The theme of this year’s parade and festival, “Peace Through Pride,” was chosen by InterPride, an organization of pride festivals in cities throughout the world.

                Pittsburgh’s PrideFest will be preceded by a series of Pride Week activities that will kick off with the sixth annual Unity Ball on June 15, 7pm-11pm. The all-ages sweetheart dance will take place aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet; tickets are $10 per person.

                Other Pride Week highlights include:

                ·The second annual Mr. Pittsburgh Pride Drag King Pageant, which will be held at Pegasus June 16 beginning at 9pm. A $5 donation will benefit the Youth Empowerment Project.

                ·Youth Services of Pittsburgh will sponsor a dance party for those 18 and older on June 17, also at Pegasus.

                ·An interactive workshop based on the PrideFest theme will be held June 18; the workshop is being hosted by the Thomas Merton Center’s radical queer project, Resyst.

                ·Unitard, a gay and lesbian sketch comedy/cabaret trio from New York City, will perform at the Andy Warhol Museum June 20 beginning at 8pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

                ·A Pride Run/Walk hosted by the Frontrunners gay and lesbian running club will take place June 22 beginning at 10am. Participants are asked to meet at Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park.

                ·Pride Week activities will wrap up June 22 with a screening of “Hot Summer Shorts,” a “best of the best” compilation of short films presented at the Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival from 1998 to 2002. “Hot Summer Shorts” will begin at 7pm at the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland.

                Cox explained that the official deadline for PrideFest booth registration was May 16, but late entrants would be considered for an additional charge if space is available.

                Parade entries will be accepted up to the day of the parade, Cox said. There is no registration fee for groups walking in the parade, but those entering a motor vehicle or float will be assessed a fee. Pre-registration forms can be obtained at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center Web site at www.glccpgh.org.

                “Last year we had the largest parade in [our] history,” Cox said. There were over 350 marching units in the 2002 parade, he added.

                Cox said PrideFest was moved from the second Saturday to the third Saturday in June to allow more time for promotion. “And we’re hoping we’ll break the curse of it always raining on the second Saturday of June,” Cox joked, citing last year’s lower-than-expected turnout due to inclement weather.

                All PrideFest events are free to the public and will include a variety of performances, information booths, food and games. A final list of performers was not available at Out’s deadline, but one confirmed event will be a “drag queen dunk tank,” Cox said.

                Cox added that the committee has planned a number of activities specifically for children, including face-painting, henna tattoos and carnival games.

                The festival ends at 6pm, but the celebration will continue courtesy of Youth Services of Pittsburgh. The organization is sponsoring an alcohol-free, all-ages “Dancing in the Streets” party at the PrideFest site with music by a disc jockey from WYEP-FM from 8pm to 11pm.

                Cox said PrideFest sponsors include “the city of Pittsburgh, the Lambda Foundation, Youth Services of Pittsburgh, Rolling Rock Brewing Co. of Latrobe, Persad Center, Banner Coin Exchange, Club Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Eagle, as well as several other supporters and friends.” PrideFest is organized by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh.

                Cox encouraged the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area to support Pride Week events and June 21 pride activities. “The success of the event really depends on the community itself. A large number of people attending the events and showing their support is the best way to make the event grow from year to year,” Cox stressed.

For more information about the Pride Parade and festival and a complete listing of Pride Week activities, visit the Web site at www.glccpgh.org or call the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at (412) 422-0114.