A drag queen wearing a rainbow-feathered headpiece and matching wings walked down University Avenue on stilts, towering over spectators and tossing out candy.
Residents dressed in T-shirts that read, “Y’all means all” danced down the street to “Love Shack” by The B-52’s alongside Mayor Lauren Poe.
The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida and its co-sponsor, the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, brought more than 100 vendors and attracted more than a thousand people to its Gainesville Pride celebration Saturday, said Terry Fleming, the Pride Community Center co-president.
Fleming said Gaineville has held Pride celebrations since 1992, and the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida has hosted the majority of them.
This year’s turnout was the largest ever, he said.
Once the parade finished at about 12:30 p.m., people gathered around the heart of downtown for the music and food-filled festival.
Mayor Poe took the stage on Bo Diddley Community Plaza and greeted the crowd:
“Good afternoon, Gay-nesville!”
Flags doubled as picnic blankets for people seated around the plaza. Lines wrapped around vendor’s tents with attendees waiting to purchase frozen piña coladas. Children played tag and tossed a football around on artificial turf.
Local music acts entertained the crowds throughout the day, including a soulful performance from wife/wife duo, Baer and the Lady.
Bruno Kirby, a 16-year-old student at Gainesville High School who is transgender, said to him, Pride not only means loving and accepting each other, but also accepting yourself.
“Before I was on testosterone, I came here, and a lot of people thought I was a girl,” Kirby said.
Now that Kirby is on testosterone, he feels even more comfortable among the Gainesville’s crowd of other LGBTQ+ residents and their allies.
Most of all, he said he wants other transgender men to know they don’t need to be afraid of who they are and that it’s all right.
Though the majority of Gainesville’s Pride culminated this weekend, the city has been showing support for the LGBTQ+ community for weeks. On National Coming Out Day, the Gainesville Public Works Department debuted three rainbow crosswalks, which later served as a fun photo-op for Pride festival-goers this year.
Chuck Field, a 60-year-old Gainesville resident, came out as bisexual last year on National Coming Out Day after questioning his sexuality for a long time.
Before he came out, he previously volunteered at a LGBTQ+ prom as a supportive ally. However, Saturday was his first “real” Pride event. He said that during his coming out journey, he’s come to appreciate both his newfound community and the allies in his life who’ve helped him along the way.
“It’s really important to me is that the people who are allies make it known they’re allies,” Field said.
For him, Pride means being unafraid to be yourself in front of other people.
He said that while his own coming out story involved little conflict because of his accepting family and job, he’s come to realize that some others aren’t as lucky as him.
“I remember telling my nephew [I am bisexual] and he’s like, ‘Well, that’s cool Uncle Chuck,’” Field said.
Jackie Korpela, known as Haley’s Vomit, a member of the Ocala Cannibals Roller Derby team, skates Saturday in the Gainesville Pride Parade that marched down University Avenue and ended at Bo Diddley Plaza.
Correction: This caption has been updated to reflect the name of Korpela.