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Annual Toledo Pride plans a weekend of colorful revelry

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    Rochelle Richmond, Hadley Clegg, Jonathan Dickey, Sean Tracy, Heather Tracy, and Becca Witkow at the festival in Levis Square during last year's Toledo Pride events.

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    A float travels along the parade route during 2016 Toledo Pride.

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    Dopey, a French bulldog pug, and his owner Jaqui Cessna of Toledo wait along Adams Street for the 2016 Toledo Pride Parade.

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Expect to see a little more color than usual downtown next weekend: Toledo Pride return for its eighth year Friday, bringing with it a rainbow-centric entertainment and dining lineup set to last through Sunday.

If you go to Toledo Pride

When: “You Will Do Better in Drag” kickoff party is 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, with Nite Glow .5K at 9 p.m. Parade and entertainment is noon to midnight Saturday. Big Rainbow Brunch Crawl is 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Levis Square, at intersection of Madison Avenue and North St. Clair Street, and along Adams

Street Admission: Kickoff party is $5 or $3 with a donation of a nonperishable food item, socks, gloves or hygiene product. Nite Glow .5K is $25 for participants in advance or $30 on Friday. Big Rainbow Brunch Crawl is $5.

Information and full schedule: toledopride.com

The annual event celebrates a diverse spectrum of sexualities on the local level, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. It’s drawn crowds of 20,000 people in the past, and Lexi Hayman-Staples, who is this year’s event director, said she’s hoping for a similar turnout at festivities spread over three days.

“Being able to be yourself and be true to yourself and to be embraced by an entire crowd of people is a fantastic thing,” said Zach Lahey, whose restaurant, Manhattan Pub ‘N Cheer, sits along Saturday’s parade route. “I love the genuineness — reaching out and lifting people up and telling people it’s OK to be who you are.”

The parties, parade, and, this year, rainbow-themed brunch crawl make for a celebratory atmosphere along Adams Street and in Levis Square. But Mrs. Hayman-Staples, who spoke less than two weeks after President Trump controversially announced via Twitter that transgender individuals would no longer be permitted to serve in the military, said Toledo Pride also comes this year as an important opportunity for the community to gather together in support and solidarity.

“I think that the entire LGBT community is feeling specifically targeted by this administration,” she said. “I think it’s a good time for us to come together to celebrate who we are and make sure we are still supportive of each other.”

The festivities start Friday, when a Nite Glow .5K (about six-tenths of a mile) at 9 p.m. will lead runners and walkers to Levis Square for an outdoor kickoff party in partnership with 92.5 KISS FM. Costumes and glowing accessories are encouraged on the run, which organizers shortened from a 5K this year to add some quirk and fun.

Check-in and registration begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Love Wall, 1209 Adams St. Registration is $25 in advance, through toledopride.com, or $30 on Friday.

The kickoff party, which Mrs. Hayman-Staples said would have more of a nightclub feel than the vendor-lined gathering on Saturday, runs 6 p.m. to midnight in Levis Square. Admission is $5 or $3 with a donation of a nonperishable food item, socks, gloves, or a hygiene product. Donations and proceeds will benefit Northwest Ohio Community Shares.

The theme of Friday’s party, “You Will Do Better in Drag,” speaks in part to the entertainment lineup. Mr. Lahey, who owns Manhattan Pub ‘N Cheer and is president of the neighborhood organization Village on Adams, will be among this year’s guest performers. He said he’s looking forward to his drag debut alongside fellow Adams Street restaurant owner George Thompson.

“It’s going to be a blast,” said Mr. Lahey, who described his participation as a “cheeky and fun” way to show his support. “I know that for sure.”

Saturday’s festivities start at noon with the Pride Parade, whose marchers annually include local businesses, community organizations, and religious congregations. The Adams Street route leads to Levis Square, which will be filled with vendors, live music and drag performers between 1 p.m. and midnight for the weekend’s free main event.

Sunday adds a new element to Toledo Pride in the “Big Rainbow Brunch Crawl.” Diners are invited to eat their way through a progression of color-coordinated menu items between 2 and 5 p.m.

Manhattan’s, for example, has yellow covered. They’ll have mimosas and macaroni and cheese, among other items, on their brunch crawl menu, Mr. Lahey said. Visitors will have to continue restaurant-hopping through the afternoon to fill in the rest of the rainbow.

Wristbands can be purchased at any participating Adams Street restaurant: Attic on Adams, Bretz, Carlos Poco Loco, Georgjz419, Manhattan’s Pub ’N Cheer, Ottawa Tavern, and Wesley’s Bar and Grill. Proceeds will benefit Toledo Pride.

The afternoon start to the brunch anticipates what Adams Street restaurant owners, who came up with the idea, figured would be an eventful weekend for Toledo Pride participants.

“We’re anticipating people are going to be sleeping in on Sunday,” Mr. Lahey said.

By 2 p.m., though, he said participants should be ready to end the weekend on a high note.

“It’s the last icing on the cake for Toledo Pride weekend,” he said.

Contact Nicki Gorny at ngorny@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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