Whether you’re gay or straight (or somewhere in-between), The Pride Parade has become one of the funnest events of the summer. There are those who come out strictly to watch the revelers strut down Elmwood, while there are others who flock to Bidwell Parkway to partake in the gigantic post-parade celebration. Here’s a quick slide show (hit continue) from the parade, along with a Q&A with John Carocci, Pride Parade supporter and an employee of the Evergreen Association (parent corporation of AIDS Community Services), the Pride Center and Alianza Latina. He was also on the Pride Committee of the Community Network for several years before Pride Buffalo was formed.
Who organizes the Pride Parade?
The pride festival has been organized by Pride Buffalo, a non-profit corporation, for about the last decade or so.
How many years has the Pride Parade been around for in Buffalo?
I’m not sure but I’d say about 16 or 17 years. I was on the committee in 1994 or so and it had been going on for a couple of years.
How was the turnout for this year’s event?
Turnout was excellent – at least as many people as last year and I’d say more.
What would you like to see for next year’s parade?
I’m content to let it grow and evolve however it needs to.
Why was the route changed this year?
The route was changed because the Kleinhans parking lot wasn’t available due to another event being held there.
Are there fewer or more Bible Thumpers each year?
I didn’t see any this year BUT I didn’t march so they may have been stationed earlier in the route. They’re normally there where the floats get ready, then once the parade starts they move to the corner of Elmwood and Lafayette. They were not at that corner this year. Some day I’ll send you an essay about the year I “infiltrated” the protesters.
Will the Dyke March ever join the Pride Parade?
I don’t think so.
Does the message change, or is it all about being open and having fun?
The gay community is very much divided on Pride in terms of its purpose. Some people see it as fun, others see it as a message to the world at large, still others see it as detrimental to the gay community. The theme of Pride changes from year to year, although the past couple years people have focused on the issue of marriage equality. Also, this is a tangent but I want to address people who stay away from Pride because they say the drag queens or go-go boys don’t represent them. The drag queens and go-go boys are representing themselves. It’s your job to represent you.
This year I saw some of the local high schools participating. Is that new? If so, what does that say about Buffalo?
I’d say the past 3 years have seen an explosion in youth participation, with groups marching from local high schools, colleges and GLYS. It’s not “new” exactly but it’s recent and growing every year. My personal opinion is that it says the up and coming generations are more accepting of homosexuality than previous generations. For example, I went to a high school with about 2000 students and there was 1 openly gay student. Today high school GLBT groups march in the Pride parade. That’s amazing to me.
What sort of sponsors do you see these days?
I don’t know if they’re actually sponsors, but many gay friendly companies march and/or have tables at the festival. HSBC Globe (gay employees) is usually there, and this year I noticed Frito-Lay and Time Warner Cable.
What about the political angle? When did politicians start marching? Who marched this year?
Politicians have always been involved at some level. Back in the mid-90s politicians gave speeches at the rally which was great for news coverage but BORING for attendees. We had proclamations from Mayor Masiello and visits from Sam Hoyt, Byron Brown, Barbra Kavanaugh and others. This year didn’t seem very political to me. I saw Sam and Mr. Kearns and a banner for Higgins for Congress. There is usually political presence in terms of activists for various causes ranging from marriage equality to women’s reproductive rights, etc.
Do the businesses along the route get involved?
I think it depends on the type of business. Restaurants and bars probably do pretty well, other stores might see it as more of an inconvenience. I don’t know of any official participation from Elmwood businesses.
Are there on-years and off-years? Do you see the event growing? How has the crowd (the onlookers) changed?
I think the past few years have seen slow but steady growth, especially in the number of spectators. The number of marchers/contingents seems to go up and down but the crowd seems to be growing. It’s also more “mainstream” – I see more straight people and families every year.
Any other thoughts?
I was in a bar one night in 1993 or so with three of my friends and we were bitching about how lame Pride was. One of my friends said we should do something about it so we went to the Community Network which produced Pride at the time and offered to take it on. It was more work than we ever could have imagined, and so I have nothing but thanks and respect for the people who have worked hard to grow the event every year. It’s a thankless job – tons of work and always someone ready to tell you how you SHOULD
have done it. They have grown our bare bones event into a real festival
that draws thousands of people: GLBT people, straight people, friends,
family, supporters, city people, suburban people, rural people,
Canadians, people of all types.