Saturday, Jul 23, 2016
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DIVERSITY SHINES

Toledo Pride parade draws more downtown to show unity, support

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    Scores of organizations, area businesses, politicians, and other supporters join the Toledo Pride parade.

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    Haley Hugo sports custom-designed shades at the Toledo Pride event in the Warehouse District downtown.

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    A float for the bar Mojo rolls down the street during the Toledo Pride parade.

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    Christopher Hansen of Little Rock shows his support along the parade route on Saturday. Others attended to honor a loved one, to support tolerance, or just to have fun at the annual event.

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    Emily Hassett sells rainbow flags as protesters chant behind her on Saturday. Attendees noticed that the parade drew more people to downtown than years previous.

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24n1pride-2

Scores of organizations, area businesses, politicians, and other supporters join the Toledo Pride parade.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Perusing the Toledo Pride parade in a poofy pink ballgown and a towering rhinestone-studded crown, Johanna Staples marveled at the throngs of people packed into the Warehouse District.

Ms. Staples, a self-described “fairy godmother” to Toledo’s LGBTQ community — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning — said the parade is more than just another gathering — it’s a chance to recognize everyone living in the area.

“Celebrating diversity in Toledo is important,” she said. “It was long overdue. We’ve had a parade for three years, and we’ve had Toledo Pride for five years.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view slideshow.

The parade and Toledo Pride have grown over the years, attracting more and more people, Ms. Staples said.

“It’s been amazing. The first year, when we had Pride down at Erie Street Market, we had 1,500 people, which is far more than we expected, and the expectation this year is we’ll draw 20,000 or more,” she said. “We have a whole weekend of events.”

24n1hugo-1

Haley Hugo sports custom-designed shades at the Toledo Pride event in the Warehouse District downtown.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Ms. Staples, the mother of Lexi Staples, Toledo Pride executive director, collects the money for the annual event. She said she long has cared for the LGBTQ community, and this event is a hallmark of that.

“I’ve been the mother to a whole lot of gay people. I’ve been the resident mother to a whole lot of gay people in Toledo for a long time,” she said.

Zipping around on skates, Melissa Simon said she came to show her support for Toledo Pride and the Glass City Rollers.

“This is something that isn’t as large as other cities, and it is growing,” the 36-year-old Toledoan said. “It’s getting much larger, and we need to show the community who we are and why we are here.”

Ms. Simon, a lesbian, said the movement is important for the city.

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A float for the bar Mojo rolls down the street during the Toledo Pride parade.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

“It matters to show unity. You get tired of people trashing you all the time,” Ms. Simon said. “Straight alliances, gay alliances, this event allows everyone to come together and show unity.”

Jennifer Nunez pushed a stroller along Washington Street just before the start of the parade. Ms. Nunez said she wanted to support her brother, who is gay and lives in Chicago.

“He’s my brother. I’m going to love him no matter what,” the 26-year-old Toledo resident said. “All families should support the gays, even if it’s their family or not. They are the same.”

Kris Turner can be reached at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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