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Friday, August 19, 2022

LGBTQ festival, promotes pride in identity, self

<p>Connell Howell, known as Champagne, struts down Southeast First Street during the Gainesville Pride Parade on Saturday.</p>

Connell Howell, known as Champagne, struts down Southeast First Street during the Gainesville Pride Parade on Saturday.

Gainesville's downtown plaza was decorated with every color of the rainbow Saturday.



The Pride Festival, a celebration of the LGBTQ community, took place on Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

The celebration started with a parade that included a float and antique cars and progressed from a parking lot on Northwest Seventh Street and West University Avenue down to the plaza.

Grand marshals Joy Revels, 51, owner of Dragonfly Graphics, and Aimee Anderson, 35, the company's marketing director and school liaison, led the parade down West University Avenue, promoting pride and their business for the first time.

"It's sort of a celebration of being free to be who you are in the world," Revels said.

Revels and Anderson are partners not only in business but also in life.

They said they have been to the festival before and have supported it by selling T-shirts used for the celebration.

"It's people pride," Revels said. "Celebrating diversity is a huge concept."

As grand marshals, the women were the first to see the Occupy Gainesville - or, as they renamed it for the day, Occu-Pride Gainesville - still protesting for the 99 percent in Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

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"We [the LGBTQ community and Occupy Gainesville] are on the same team," Anderson said.

"This Occupy ‘America' is revolutionary," Revels said. "In 50 years, we could be celebrating the taking back of our country. I would walk in that."

A tent away from the "Occu-Pride Gainesville" camp sat the "Kid Pride," where children could get their faces painted.

Positioned just beyond the children stood the United States Marine Corps tent, a first for the festival.

"We are here to present different options to different people," said Sgt. Daniel Gonzales Jr., 26, at the Marine Corps tent.

He said the Marines are now able to recruit at events like the Pride Parade because of the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy in the U.S. Armed Forces, and there haven't been any issues since the repeal.

The antique cars were from the Flamingo Auto Groups of Orlando and Tampa.

The groups are a part of the Lambda Car Club International, the largest international gay-and-lesbian car club with more than 2,200 members and 30 chapters nationally, according to the club's website.

Since 2001, the groups have been bringing their antique cars to participate in the parade, said Gordon Lawyer, 57, a member of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida.

This year, the cars had multicolored streamers attached to them for the parade.

"It's just like any other social population who like to celebrate their culture whether you are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered or questioning," Lawyer said.

Craig Lowe, mayor of Gainesville and open member of the LGBTQ community, said the parade is a "good opportunity to celebrate diversity in Gainesville."

Lowe said he has been active in the festival since it started in 1992.

"The value placed upon equality is increasing," he said. "We'll see much more emphasis put upon equality in the future."


Connell Howell, known as Champagne, struts down Southeast First Street during the Gainesville Pride Parade on Saturday.

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