Noho Pride march set for Saturday, 20,000 expected
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO The Noho Pride March proceeds on Main Street in Northampton in 2012. This year's LGBT Parade and Pride Event with the theme "Our Journey is Not Complete" is Saturday. The parade starts at noon from Hampton Avenue to the Three-County Fairgrounds. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — With forecasts calling for a downright perfect day Saturday, organizers of this year’s LGBT Parade and Pride Event, with the theme “Our Journey is Not Complete,” expect to match and possibly exceed last year’s estimated crowd of 20,000.
“Whenever the weather is good, we can count on critical mass,” said J.M. Sorrell, a longtime march participant who serves as spokeswoman for Noho Pride, the nonprofit that organizes the march and rally.
Saturday’s weather calls for temperatures in the mid 70s, lots of sun and no rain.
The 32nd annual rally will serve as both a celebration and a reminder that, despite great strides, the equal rights struggle for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is not over, Sorrell said.
The event offers a number of inspirational speakers and a full schedule of music and entertainment.
This year’s theme highlights the need for continued activism to prevent discrimination. Sorrell said that disparity still exists in many ways, including the difference between federal and state rights on marriage equality, transgender issues and social justice areas such as economic equality.
“We grow in diversity and numbers every year, but that root foundation that we gather once a year to talk about, issues of disparity, remains,” Sorrell said. “At the same time, there is a lot to celebrate.”
Saturday’s 1.1-mile parade steps off at Hampton Avenue at noon and proceeds onto Old South Street, then along Main Street and to Fair Street and the Three-County Fairgrounds, the event’s post-march venue.
Organizers adopted this new route and venue a year ago. The changes proved so successful that organizers expect more people will turn out this year now that word has spread about the extra space the fairgrounds provide. Sorrell said the added room will mean additional food vendors, specific areas for teams to hang out and much more. Organizers said this year’s parade will feature more groups of people, especially among the young and old.
Participation by high school gay-straight alliances throughout the region continues to climb each year, as does the number of children with lesbian and gay parents, Sorrell said. A new local chapter of the Old Lesbians Organization for Change also expects to have a parade contingent.
“Thirty years ago teachers wore bags over their heads for fear of losing their jobs; now at least 20 gay-straight alliances will march,” Sorrell said. “That always moves me.”
The Pride March will also feature floats, music and lots of color in the form of banners, balloon arches and more.
Parade marchers and spectators will also notice a beefed-up fundraising effort this year called “buck in the bucket” in which volunteers will ask for $1 donations.
The effort is intended to offset the roughly $40,000 that it takes to put on the event. Other than food and beverages, the all-volunteer event is underwritten by sponsors and is free.
Following the march at 1:30 p.m., comic Kelli Dunham will kick off the celebration at the fairgrounds and serve as emcee. Dunham, a registered nurse and author, has earned national recognition for her comedic work.
Mayor David J. Narkewicz will read a proclamation in support of gay rights.
Headlining this year’s musical performers are singer-songwriter John Brandoli and the band Antigone Rising. Other performers include songwriter Karen Grenier, the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, Left Lying and the Northampton chapter of the Raging Grannies.
Speakers include the Rev. Tinker Donnelly, founder of HeartWorks outreach ministry in Northampton, and international human rights activist Billy Urich. Also on the docket are a number of drag performances. Events will continue until 5:30 p.m.
A detailed schedule of Noho Pride events, speakers and performers is available online at www.site.nohopride.org.