Pride to celebrate progress in PA

Organizers of Philadelphia Pride are expecting this weekend’s festivities to draw up to 15,000 people, the biggest in its history.

The parade will kick off at noon June 8 at 13th and Locust streets, and the festival at Penn’s Landing will run until 6 p.m.

An expected highlight of the celebration will be the wedding of 10 same-sex couples in front of Independence Hall during the parade, an effort planned after Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality last month.

“It is exciting and something I didn’t think was going to happen for years in Pennsylvania,” said Philly Pride Presents executive director Franny Price.

The Hon. Dan Anders, the city’s first openly gay male judge, will officiate.

So far, 65 groups are set to march in the parade, including newcomers like the Republican Party of Philadelphia.

About 100 volunteers are signed up to keep the parade and festival organized and flowing.

Vendor spaces are sold out, with 130 spots taken. But, as long as a vendor arrives that day with a cash or check, Price said she will find them a spot.

Philly Pride Presents senior advisor Chuck Volz said this year the organizers decided to maximize the usage of the area at Penn’s Landing by including new features such as a climbing obstacle and a wrecking ball. Volz said nine food vendors have also been added.

The stage will be a focal point of the festival, with The Village People headlining, who are expected to be a hit.

“Everybody is talking about it,” Price said. “The Village People were our first gay icons and they are relevant with our theme, ‘Reflections of Pride.’”

Besides the headliner, this year’s lineup will include performances by BETTY, Well-Strung, Lynne Koplitz, AKiRE, Ariana & the Rose, Mimi Imfurst and Wendy Ho.

This year’s grand marshals are city director of LGBT affairs Gloria Casarez and Philly Trans* March founder Christian Axavier Lovehall, with youth grand marshals Avery McNair and Dashawn “Dalyla” Baker. This year’s Friend of Pride is City Councilman Mark Squilla.

Reviewing-stand announcers are CBS 3 consumer reporter Jim Donovan and Rudy Flesher.

Price said she had not heard whether anti-LGBT protestors will show up but said they will not disrupt the festivities.

“Pride is easier than Outfest because they cannot get into the festival and they show up at Independence Hall and once the parade gets there, they can’t make any noise because we have performers,” she said. “They are usually told to move.”

Entrance to the festival increased from $10-$15 this year, but Volz said he doesn’t expect that to negatively impact attendance.

“People will pay $15 to see a whole bunch of people perform,” he said. “That is still a bargain.”

Wristbands can still be purchased for $10 in advance at the Kick-Off Block Party, 6-11 p.m. June 6 on 12th Street between Walnut and Spruce.

To keep the entrance line moving at the festival, there will be a separate line for those who carry bigger backpacks and bags, but Volz discouraged attendees from bringing bags.

He said organizers are expecting a crowd that reflects all facets of the LGBT community — one of the most valuable elements of the festival.

“It is a wonderful thing for people to come and see how diverse our community is,” Volz said. “All elements of our community are in one place and it is one of the few places it happens.”

“The wonderful thing about the diversity is it creates awareness and people see that we look just like everybody else,” Price added. “We pride ourselves on the fact that people say they don’t feel excluded.”

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