Gay pride parade gets record turnout of 700 marchers
Organizers attribute the big downtown crowd to fine weather and extensive publicity.Bill Gordon and Ron Turner embrace and kiss Saturday during the ninth annual gay pride parade in Portland. Organizers said the turnout under clear skies with temperatures hitting 90, was double the size of last year's event. About 700 people marched in 33 groups.------>
by Samantha McCall- Staff writerWith sunny sldes and temperatures in the low 90s, more than 700 people marched through downtown Portland on Saturday afternoon in the ninth annual gay pride parade. "This is the first year we've had people lined up on the side of the streets," said Laurie Fortman, a parade coordinator. "This has been so empowering. It gives you a really good sense of well-being and pride in the community."
Organizers of the parade, sponsored by Southern Maine Pride '95, said the turnout was double the size of last year's crowd. Last year, about 300 people marched in 15 groups in the parade, and this year about 700 people marched in 33 groups, Fortman said.
Organizers attributed the crowd size to the weather and extensive media coverage. "We couldn't have asked for a better day," said Richard B. Freed, another parade organizer.
The parade, which began at noon near Longfellow Square, brightened Congress and Exchange streets with rainbows decorating floats, balloons, a marching band, and hundreds of supporters of the gay community.
Whistles blew, motorcycles revved drums drummed and banners flew as gays, lesbians, parents, children, dogs wearing rainbow colIars and other supporters marched for nearly an hour.
With the symbolic rainbow-striped flag in hand, some members of the Maine Gay Men's Chorus roller bladed down the street as Miss Maine 1994, riding in a red convertible BMW, waved to crowds of people lined on the street.
"My platform has been my commitment to diversity. I came here today to support friends and family members," said Victoria Reynolds of Bangor, who gives up her title in a week.
A well-known local advocate for AIDS, Frannie Peabody, wearing a purple jacket and a hot pink boa, got the most cheers and applause from the crowds as she was driven in a convertible Mercedes-Benz. Several people started chanting "Frannie for president" when she went by.
Posters covering her car read: "I want you to help someone with AIDS."
Police officers escorted the festive event that ended at Tommys Park in the Old Port, and said the gathering was "incident-free."
Wearing a T-shirt that said "My daughter came out of the closet and all I got was this lousy T-shirt," Rita Kissen was one of about 25 people marching with the group "Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays." "I'm here to support the people marching and the ones who aren't marching," said Kissen, of Peaks Island "It's important to show we love our kids and that we support their rights to be treated like everyone else's kids."
Walking with the "Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Parents Group of Maine," Kim Reed pushed her 3- year-old daughter, Angelica Patrice, in a stroller down the street.
"I think this is beautiful," said Reed, who recently moved to Portland from North Carolina. "This is the first time I've been able to do something like this and I think it's great."
The three-day celebration ends today with a karaoke dance cruise at 2 p.m. on Casco Bay and a beer bash starting at 5 p.m. at Citi. Later tonight, there will be live jazz at 8:30 p.m. by "Boogie 2 Shooz" and, finally, the Miss Gay Maine Pageant at 9 p.m. at The Underground.
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