Auburn’s Festival Plaza was a whirl of color and smiles Saturday as hundreds gathered for Pride, the Twin Cities’ third annual celebration of LGBTQ communities.

After words from Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier, individuals and couples, families and pets, old and young, sporting a simple rainbow sticker or flag or decked out in costume, marched across Longley Bridge and into Simard-Payne Memorial Park for the afternoon festival.

The Empathy Tent at the L-A Pride festival at Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Saturday afternoon is displayed many variations of pride flags. Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal

As with the parades and festivals that took place around the world this month, Pride L-A was a chance to look back. Friday was the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, a 1969 uprising in Manhattan that catalyzed the modern movement for LGBTQ rights.

“It was a year after that that the first Pride festival came to be, from the need to fight for our rights,” said Pride L-A Chairman Frank Cottle.

He said this year’s Pride highlighted the diversity among LGBTQ people and tried to include many different communities. People’s reasons for attending, he said, could vary.

“A lot of people know the historical meaning of Pride and how far we’ve come,” he said. “Some people will think about how far we still have to go, some people do a mix of both, and some people use it as an excuse to celebrate.”

Ty Bolduc, a 16-year-old Leavitt Area High School student, is co-chairman of the youth advisory board of Outright L-A. Before the festival, Bolduc organized “In Honor of Stonewall,” a gallery at Art Walk about the uprising. He also served as a Pride marshal, leading the march.

Firouzeh Assadollahzadeh-Rice, 2, chews on her gay parade flag as her moms, Annie Rice, right, holding sister Arezou, 3 months old and, Mina Assadollahzadeh take in the sights at the L-A Maine Pride Festival in Simard Payne Memorial Park on Saturday. Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal

“I love Pride,” Bolduc said. “Pride is my favorite time of year. I don’t tell people I’m gay all the time. I’m not super open about who I am, but Pride is a time for me to acknowledge and just be around people who feel the same way and not be ashamed or concerned.”

Once the marchers reached the festival, they were greeted by emerging sunlight and booths with resources and friendly faces from nonprofits, activities groups, churches and businesses.

A group called Free Mom Hugs offered just that to youths who were perhaps rejected by their own families. Rainbow lollipops abounded.

James Dean of Lewiston set up a makeshift tunnel of Pride flags representing different communities: the standard rainbow flag, the pink-blue-and-white transgender flag, the pink-blue-and-yellow pansexual flag.

It was this tunnel that Ally Cleveland of Auburn enjoyed the most. She had never been to a Pride festival before but went with a group of roller derby teammates.

Emma Debrosse and Alexa Lachance, both 15, attended the L-A Pride parade Saturday morning in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal

“It was the first time I felt like I had a safe group of people to be with,” she said.
Under the afternoon sun, dozens gathered to watch a talent show of drag performances and story time, music and dance.

As Curtis Thomas of New Orleans, a mentor at the Young Dancers Workshop of the Bates Dance Festival, prepared students to perform to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” he echoed a sentiment widely held across the park:

“We’re having a great time.”

Heather Berube, Myri U and Ty Bolduc, right, the L-A Pride parade marshal, are greeted by Jessica Paquette as the parade begins across Longley Bridge from Auburn to Lewiston on Saturday. Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal Andree Kehn/ Sun Journal


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