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Published: Sunday, 8/28/2011

Thousands turn out downtown for city’s 1st Gay Pride Parade

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Equality Ohio was one of the many organizations that marched in Toledo’s Gay Pride Parade. It started at the intersection of South St. Clair and Washington streets and ended at Promenade Park. Equality Ohio was one of the many organizations that marched in Toledo’s Gay Pride Parade. It started at the intersection of South St. Clair and Washington streets and ended at Promenade Park.
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Kristi Lillie tossed a bean bag into a hole sporting a sign, “Sink One For Equality,” scored, and laughed as a crowd of onlookers cheered.

She was one of an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people who had just finished marching in Toledo’s first Gay Pride Parade about 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I am having a great time. It’s fun,” said the 32-year-old University of Toledo senior. “It’s my first time at a gay parade. And I think it’s essential that we should have the same rights like everybody else. We’re not hurting anybody.”

Each marcher had bought a $5 admission wristband to Promenade Park, where the second annual Toledo Pride event was held yesterday. Last year’s event did not feature a parade.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more photos from the Gay Pride Parade

Steven Steel, 49, a Toledo councilman, said he was impressed with the “great diversity, people from different ethnicities, genders, races, economic situations, sexual orientations, and religions.”

He had just co-marshaled the parade alongside entertainer Hershae Chocolotae.

“In terms of the mood, the turnout, and the diversity, this is one of the best festivals we’ve seen all year,” Mr. Steel said. “It shows that we are a welcoming city, that we celebrate diversity, and that people should feel happy and safe here.”

A sign hangs from the license plate of a motorcycle that led Saturday’s parade in Toledo. A sign hangs from the license plate of a motorcycle that led Saturday’s parade in Toledo.
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Dozens of area businesses, religious organizations, entertainers, vendors, and volunteers set up their tents for a Community Connection Carnival in Promenade Park.

Sherry Tripepi, executive director of Equality Toledo, one of the event sponsors, agreed. The nonprofit group describes itself as an organization that “works for equality for all Ohioans regardless of their marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through education, anti-defamation efforts, and activism.”

“This is the event to celebrate the LGBT community,” Ms. Tripepi said. “We are saying that we are a welcoming and safe [city] for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.”

The extravagantly dressed crowd gathered at the intersection of South St. Clair and Washington streets by 2 p.m., about which time the march began, heading east on Washington to South Owens Corning Parkway, then proceeding north on the parkway to Water Street, then up Water to Promenade Park, where most of the marchers gathered to kick off the festival.

Organizers were expecting attendance to at least double by about 7 p.m., at which time adult admission went up to $7. Admission for children 17 and under was free. Saturday’s festivities were scheduled to run until midnight.

The local band No Excuses, a folk and pop group featuring members Lisa Binkowski, left, and Merri Bame, was one of the musical groups to perform during the second annual Toledo Pride event at Promenade Park. The local band No Excuses, a folk and pop group featuring members Lisa Binkowski, left, and Merri Bame, was one of the musical groups to perform during the second annual Toledo Pride event at Promenade Park.
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At 9:20 p.m. — about 20 minutes into the live entertainment program — about 1,000 people were sitting or standing in front of the Promenade Park stage, some swaying to the music, others snacking. By that time, attendance throughout the day was estimated at 2,500, according to Nicole Khoury, executive director of Project iAm, a group that had provided volunteers for the event.

Musical entertainment was provided by local artists such as bard Kyle White, the all-female group Spectrum, and No Excuses, a folk and pop group. Other area entertainers included soulful rockers, indie pop, and rock groups. The late-night part of the program was highlighted with a Drag Extravaganza organized by area performers for people 18 and older.

Event sponsors included OutSkirts, Equality Toledo, Yark Fiat, Outlines Toledo, and the Toledo Free Press.

Said Jen Baxa, 26, an Owens Community College sophomore who volunteered to help set up the tents and tables: “I am here because I believe that equality is necessary for everyone.”

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, or 419-724-6089.



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