Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Toledo's annual LGBT event expands beyond traditional weekend

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    St. Lucas Lutheran Church members make their way down the street for the parade during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last August.

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    Participants in the parade carry balloons spelling out the word "pride" during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last August.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
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    A paradegoer picks up a piece of candy during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last year.

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    Drag queens wave to the crowd from a float during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last year.

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Pride has come a long way in a nearly half-century of history that’s seen it evolve from protest and commemoration in New York City to the slew of rainbow-centric celebrations in cities across the country and world.

Toledo Pride — a weekend of events that celebrate and affirm a broad spectrum of gender identities and sexualities, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender — has come a long way too, just in a significantly shorter period of time.


What: Toledo Pride

When: You Will Do Better in Drag begins 7 p.m. Friday; Toledo Pride parade and festival begin noon Saturday; see website for other events

Where: Promenade Park, 400 Water St.

Admission: $5 or $3 with donation on Friday, free on Saturday


Toledo Pride rings in its ninth year with three days of festivities on Friday, Saturday, and Aug. 19. Organizers said this year promises to be perhaps the biggest celebration yet, with a parade lineup that keeps on growing and a first-time initiative to extend the festivities into a full “Pride Week” leading up to the main event.

“Our idea is to try to hit every corner of the community, so they have something they can go to and celebrate with us,” said Analese Alvarez, executive director of Equality Toledo. “And to just host more events, just trying to prolong the celebration.”

Ms. Alvarez is in her first year at the nonprofit, which works with Toledo Pride, its own nonprofit, in organizing the annual downtown celebration. Equality Toledo this year took on responsibility for planning a variety of events — ranging from tie-dye to multifaith worship — in the days leading up to the weekend’s main event.

That main event, as in past years, entails an outdoor party and drag show on Friday, a parade and all-day festival on Saturday, and a Big Rainbow Brunch Crawl on Sunday. The primary venue is Promenade Park, 400 Water St., which fronts the Maumee River.

“We just can’t wait to welcome everyone back on the water,” event director Lexi Hayman-Staples said.

To the LGBT community and its allies, Pride is a celebration that doesn’t forget its roots. It evolved as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, which is considered the birth of the modern LGBT movement, according to an account provided by GLAAD. Stonewall Inn patrons had resisted a police raid that was then routine for bars catering to an LGBT clientele, and the ensuing riots gave birth to a surge of activism and attention.

Pride events have significantly spread and expanded in the more than four decades since, evolving into multiday celebrations in cities around the world. In anticipating just its ninth annual event, Toledo is a relative newcomer to the global slate.

For Ms. Alvarez, who acknowledged the roots of the event in protest and in commemoration, Pride today is also an important opportunity to celebrate. She reflected on her first time at an event, in Los Angeles, when she was 20 years old. She had come out the same year.

“Pride for me was the first space where I walked in and it was a primarily LGBTQ community,” Ms. Alvarez, 40, said. “It was a very profound experience. … Going to Pride was the first time I had a space to explore and feel what it was like to be myself.”

She also sees it as an opportunity for allies, she said.

“It’s a great public event to introduce them and maybe their families to organizations and groups in Toledo,” she said. “And just be part of the celebration with us. We’re still very much embattled in civil rights with the LGBT community. To have these spaces to be present is important and vital.”

Toledoans have in many ways embraced Pride, with more nonprofits, businesses, churches, and other organizations signing on to march in the parade on Saturday than in any previous year, Mrs. Hayman-Staples said. Last year’s parade wound through downtown for more than an hour, she said, and this year’s lineup is expected to be even more extensive.


St. Lucas Lutheran Church members make their way down the street for the parade during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last August.

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Adding quirk to this year’s proceedings is the introduction of the “Pride Cup,” a trophy that will be awarded to the best float along with a year’s worth of bragging rights.

“It will be amazing and glittery and horrifyingly tacky,” Mrs. Hayman-Staples promised with a laugh.

The parade kicks off at noon, runs the extent of Adams Street and then swings right on Summit Street. That route leads participants into Promenade Park, where the main event promises a slew of vendors and live entertainment — music, food trucks and drag performers — through 11:45 p.m.

Admission is free and the event, especially in the afternoon, is family friendly.

Promenade Park is a return to the celebration’s roots after renovations to the waterfront space pushed Toledo Pride to Levis Square in 2015 and 2016. Mrs. Hayman-Staples said the reclaimed venue enables organizers to bring back one attraction that proved to a be a hit at earlier events: approximately 45-minute river cruises aboard the Sandpiper, which attendees can pick up for free. Drag performer Gina Arnez will host trivia and dole out prizes.

“It’s so cool,” Mrs. Hayman-Staples said. “People love it. They’ll take their whole family to it.”

For those revelers who are 18 and older who want to keep the party going on Saturday, Equality Toledo and Georgjz419 host an “After Pride Street Party” at the bar, 1205 Adams St., beginning at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5.

Pride Week events leading up to the weekend include a kickoff party featuring bingo and a silent auction at the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd., at 6 p.m. Tuesday; a tie-dye event at the arts center between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday; a multifaith service at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1201 Madison Ave, at 7 p.m. Thursday; and a vigil honoring living and deceased members of the LGBT community and their allies at the church beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Each event is free. Tie-dyers are invited to bring their own shirts or purchase one for $8.

Friday promises more of a party, less of a festival, in “You Will Do Better in Drag,” also in Promenade Park. Deja Dellataro hosts.

“You Will Do Better in Drag” runs 7 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $5 or $3 with a donation of cleaning supplies, school supplies, disposable plates and silverware, or individually wrapped snacks. Donations and proceeds will benefit Northwest Ohio Community Shares and Harvey House.

And Sunday wraps up Pride with a brunch crawl on Adams Street. Each participating restaurant – Attic on Adams, Carlos Poco Loco, Georgjz419, Manhattan’s Pub ’N Cheer, Ottawa Tavern, and Wesley’s Bar and Grill — offers a color-coordinated menu between 2 and 5 p.m. Wristbands can be purchased at any restaurant and allow for an afternoon of restaurant and rainbow-hopping.


Drag queens wave to the crowd from a float during the Toledo Pride Parade and Festival in downtown Toledo last year.

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June is considered “Pride Month,” when numerous cities hold their own localized weekend events. Those cities include Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, where Mrs. Hayman-Staples said that those plugged into the local LGBT scene have long been willing to travel.

That Toledo delays its event until August is intentional, the event director said; she’s been involved since its earliest days. The late-summer date ensures that locals can continue traveling to out-of-town events, and that out-of-towners can travel to Toledo.

“When we started doing it, we were the last ones that we really knew of in the summer season,” she said. “Now you’ll see that happening more. It gives people a chance to support the Prides in other areas around them.”

Contact Nicki Gorny at or 419-724-6133.

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