Akron bursts with color during inaugural LGBTQ Pride festival

Members of OutSupport Inc. march during the Akron Pride parade on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017.

Lyric Aquino

The streets of Akron filled with color, laughter and smiles as members of the LGBTQ community and allies celebrated the city’s first Pride parade and festival Saturday at Hardesty Park.

Kent State’s LGBTQ Center and Fusion Magazine were exhibitors at the event. 

Isaac Baez, a chair member of the Pride march, said he believes Pride is not only a celebration, but a justice and equality movement, as well.

“Pride has history more of an equality march, more of a justice march,” he said. “It’s to demonstrate to the community that we do exist and there are many of us out here and we come in all different colors.”

Baez signaled the start of the march with enthusiasm and happiness as crowds cheered and flashes of rainbow beads illuminated the pathway.

Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan volunteered to be the grand marshal at the Pride parade. For some members of the LGBTQ community, it brought a sense of connection and acceptance.

“The city has done a lot for us, from the police, to the fire department, to getting the mayor to walk. They’ve been really helpful and supportive,” Baez said.

The mayor expressed enthusiasm for the event, and said he hopes the community will come and represent the values of acceptance and love during Pride.

“We need to show that we are a welcoming community for all and this is just one example of that,” Horrigan said. “We are a welcoming, loving community, and we want everyone to thrive.”

Sara Booker, a senior human development studies major and Chair of Allied Affairs for Kent Pride, attended the festivities and walked with the LGBTQ Student Center during the parade.

“Recognizing the equality of everyone regardless of sexual orientation or identity is what we’re trying to do,” she said.

Booker was dressed from head to toe in rainbows and had fairy wings that caught many kids’ eyes at the event.

“There’s so much diversity,” Brooker said. “This event is family-oriented, and it makes me happy to see families and kids celebrating and attending.”

Music and dancing filled the fairgrounds, from the Kidzone, to the ticket booth, to more than 100 vendors.

However, some attendees were filled with the memories of intolerance as they tried to celebrate.

The Rev. Kurt Wieser, 61, of Norton, Ohio, remembers a time when people were less celebratory.

“For me, growing up, Pride meant survival,” he said. “Way back in ‘71 when I first came out, I was 15. It meant survival to me. I could see older people around me who had made it and who are successful.”

Although he remembers dark times, Rev. Wieser chooses to focus on the positivity radiating from the city of Akron and the community.

“Today, it’s about the community, bringing people together and helping young members of the LGBTQ community who are trying to come out,” Wieser said.

The mayor said he believes Pride festivities and the celebration of the LGBTQ community are long overdue, and hopes that this will bring people closer and have a tighter sense of community and belonging.

“Pride pushes us to be better,” Horrigan said. “We were pushed in the right direction. I want people to say this is just not my city, this is just not where I live, this is my home and my community.”

Lyric Aquino is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected].