Written by Steve Charing

The 38th annual Pride festivities in Baltimore on June 15-16 should feature a bit more hop in the steps of the paraders, a few more wide smiles among the folks around the festival’s booths, and a general feeling of accomplishment by the thousands who are expected to attend. For this Pride marks the first time that same-sex couples can legally marry in Maryland.

While a lot more work remains on other issues, because of the historic victory of achieving marriage equality, gays and lesbians can rightfully feel they are no longer treated as second class citizens. That is something to celebrate, and so it will be. Baltimore Pride is a program of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB) and an important source of its fundraising. The community-based nonprofit organization was founded in 1977; its mission is to provide support, education, outreach and advocacy for LGBTQ individuals and their allies through programs, services and resources. “This year is very special to the GLCCB and Pride organizers; there are many new happenings at Pride and we’re bringing back traditional favorites,” Matt Thorn, interim executive director of the GLCCB and Pride Committee chairman, told Baltimore OUTloud. “New to Baltimore Pride this year are the ‘Activists of the Year,’ who are Shawnna Alexander and Jamal Hailey. As many have read, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will serve as Grand Marshall in addition to performing the first mass wedding at Pride during the festival on June 16 at Druid Hill Park.”

Thorn points out that there will be an “I Do” pavilion at the festival featuring vendors from around the Mid-Atlantic region for couples to visit to get ideas for their weddings. Although the Pride dates are officially June 15 and 16, other Pride-related events take place prior to the big weekend. For instance, from 7 to 11 p.m. on Friday, June 14, the GLCCB will host the 8th annual Twilight on the Terrace gala at Gertrude’s Restaurant at The Baltimore Museum of Art. This is also a fundraiser for the GLCCB, and for a $125 ticket, guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a four-hour open bar, and dancing to music courtesy of DJ J.R. Embrey. The parade, which will take place on Saturday, June 15, has always been a colorful, spirited and popular event. This year it will kick-off at 3:30 pm, instead of the traditional 4:00 p.m. and will include at least 70 entries.

According to Donald Young, the Pride Parade Coordinator for the past four years, “Once again this year, from the Washington, DC Metro area, we are proud to have The Dykes on Bikes leading off the parade, and the fantastic and famous DC Different Drummers Marching Band.” Young explains there will be seven judges, selected based on their involvement and support for the LGBT community of Baltimore, to evaluate the entries. Included are: Carlton Smith, Baltimore Black Pride Chair; Marie Louise Ransome, owner of Marie Louise Bistro; Miss Victoria Schassler, owner of Spirits of Mt. Vernon; Woodland Pomeroy, Johns Hopkins Medical; Miss Gracie Lyndsay, Entertainer and Hairdresser; Chuck Bowers, owner of Club Hippo; and Linda Swift, owner of Jays on Read. “Award categories for this year are Best Car / Motorcycle, Best Walking Group, and Best Float,” says Young. “Also this year, there is a new category, but that is a surprise.” Young points out that prior to the parade, “we will start off with something new and fresh.” He will join Miss Ada Buffett, Baltimore entertainer; Johnny Starr, Mr. Youth Prince 2012; Miss Demarje, and Miss Victoria Blair” in a Pre-Warm-Up Spectacular Show starting at 2 p.m. This will be followed by MV Fitness performing the warm-up leading to the Annual High Heel Race starting at 3 p.m.

The winner will receive a prize package valued close to $1,100. Young thanks Baltimore businesses and sponsors of the High Heel Race for the donations, especially Spirits of Mt. Vernon for being head sponsor once again. “The parade has grown over the past four years,” notes Young, “and we are honored and proud to work with each and every of the contingents in this year’s Baltimore Pride Parade 2013. We could have not done all of this without the wonderful support from the Baltimore Pride Planning Committee. A special thanks to Matt Thorn for all of your hard work and commitment for making this year’s Baltimore Pride celebration one of the best.” Following the parade, fun will be had by thousands as the streets of Mount Vernon are transformed into what is billed as a “nightclub without walls” at the Block Party.

The festivities will close at 9 p.m., an hour earlier than usual this year. The Pride festival on Sunday, June 16 will be held in Druid Hill Park from Noon to 5 p.m. It will feature many regional and local performers, vendors, the Lady Lisa Memorial Drag Stage, a Family Zone, and plenty of fun for the whole community to enjoy. An estimated 5,000 celebrants are expected to come out on Sunday for the fun and festivities. “One of the goals of the Pride organizers this year was to focus on Diversity, Inclusiveness and hometown Baltimore and Maryland,” Thorn explains. “Our featured headliner is hometown Baltimorean and a hit maker Ultra Nate. Ultra will be joined on Saturday by a variety of artists and DJ’s who have highlighted Baltimore throughout their careers including DJ J.R. Embrey, the Miss Gay Maryland finalists, DJ Rosie and much more. At the festival the artists range in music and genres from Septimus the Great to Unity Band.” The parade / block party and the festival are free and open to the public though the organizers we suggest a donation at both events to help continue the programming and community activities that the GLCCB sponsors throughout the year. Happy Pride!

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