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Saturday, March 02, 2024

Festival celebrates gay pride with activities, drag show

Members of local pride organizations and their supporters cheered in celebration while marching down University Avenue on Saturday, holding colorful signs and waving water noodles, as part of Gainesville's Sixth annual Pride Parade.

The parade preceded the 15th annual Pride Festival, and both events celebrated the conclusion of Gainesville's Pride Week and National Pride Coming Out Week.

The parade, which began at University Avenue and Seventh Street and ended at the Downtown Community Plaza, was led by members of Gainesville High School's Students Teaching Open Mindedness and Pride club, or S.T.O.M.P. They held a large banner that read "STOMP OUT DISCRIMINATION."

Representatives from organizations such as Wild Iris Books and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church also marched in the parade. Once the parade reached Main Street, people standing on the sidewalks waved and cheered as it marched by.

At the festival, hundreds of people roamed around the plaza getting airbrushed tattoos, face paint and supporting the different groups at the event. About 1,000 people were expected to have come and gone throughout the day, said Staci Fox, board member of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. About 40 vendors were at the festival, said Kim Kelley, board member of the center.

The Human Rights Council of North Florida also had a booth at the event with petitions to get gender identity and expression on Gainesville's anti-discrimination code of ordinance.

The council recently helped pass the domestic partner registry, which allows couples to declare themselves as partners regardless of sexual orientation, and are now working toward the change in the ordinance, said Bob Karp, council secretary. They've already received one vote toward the change and need three more, he said.

This was UF graduate student Thomas Kernan's first year at the festival

He said he was excited that Gainesville actually has a festival to go to and was glad it had such a large turnout.

"It's about expressing ourselves to the people as a community, showing our pride and really letting them know we're not here because we want to screw things up," he said. "We're not going against the Catholic church, we're not going against anything. We're here just trying to live and want to express ourselves as people," he said.

The event concluded with a drag show.

Lady Pearl, drag queen at University Club, hit the stage in a white, beaded gown and sang Beyonce's "Listen."

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She mentioned she was hungry, and people began bringing food up to the stage for her, such as chips, candy, pickles and Ho Hos.

The crowd moved closer to the stage and danced along to songs as the show went on. Several drag queens and one drag king performed songs to end the festival and gave any money they made while performing to a donation tank reserved for funds for next year's event.

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