Pittsburgh hosts march and PrideFest on Sunday

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After the first Pride in the Street celebration five years ago, Gary A. Van Horn found a friend crying on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, deeply moved that his native Pittsburgh was "progressive" enough to host a big street party for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Today, Pride in the Street is still growing. It's attracted corporate sponsors and won the support of local leaders. As for Mr. Van Horn's friend? Having concluded that Pittsburgh had a place for him, he shelved plans to move to Miami and bought a house in the city.

"I would say that Pittsburgh is warming to it," Mr. Van Horn said of Pittsburgh Pride, an annual series of events that includes Pride in the Street on Saturday night, the Pride Awareness March at noon Sunday and the family-friendly PrideFest street festival from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Mr. Van Horn is president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, which launched Pride in the Street and took over the Pittsburgh Pride festival. While the LGBT community is pleased with the growing support, he said, a commitment to diversity is essential, overall, for a region trying to attract new businesses and residents.

"Diversity is no longer a black and white issue," he said. "It's black, Latino, Asian, you name it, and the LGBT community."

Pride in the Street will include a 45-minute concert by LGBT supporter Patti LaBelle. The concert begins at 6 p.m. Saturday on Liberty Avenue, between Ninth and 10th streets. Tickets cost $30 at www.pittsburghpride.org/tickets or $40 at the gate, if available.

About 4,500 people attended Pride in the Street last year, and, with online sales five times higher than in 2010, Mr. Van Horn anticipates a larger crowd this year -- one likely to include a large number of straight people who want to support LGBT friends or just check out the party.

Sunday's march begins on the Boulevard of the Allies, between Smithfield and Grant streets, and proceeds along Grant, Fifth Avenue and Liberty before ending on Sixth Street. The family-friendly PrideFest will occupy Liberty from Sixth to 10th Street.

Beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday, Liberty will be closed to traffic between Ninth and 10th streets. On Sunday, Liberty will be closed from Sixth to 10th streets, and sections of Tito Way, Sixth and Seventh avenues, Seventh and Ninth streets and Wood Street also will be closed.

The Pride Awareness March will bring additional, limited street closures, city police said.

About 35 Port Authority routes also will be affected at various times through the weekend. Details are available at Port Authority bus racks, at www.portauthority.org and at 412-442-2000.

When Pride in the Street was planned five years ago, some members of the LGBT and straight communities wondered whether Pittsburgh would welcome the kind of street party common to San Francisco, New York and parts of Florida. Mr. Van Horn attributed the success to various factors, including the corporate community's growing commitment to inclusion.

"To continue to retain and recruit talent, you have to meet the needs of employees," he said.

Mr. Van Horn was thrilled when Highmark became a sponsor three years ago.

Today, sponsors include University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PNC and Macy's, which is marking the occasion by bringing "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Lawrence "Miss Lawrence" Washington to the Downtown store at 5 p.m. today.

Sara Oliver-Carter, Highmark's vice president for diversity and inclusion, said the insurer had numerous reasons for sponsoring Pittsburgh Pride.

"First of all, it makes good business sense for Highmark," she said. "It builds brand loyalty, frankly, and it helps us widen our talent pool, and it helps us win new business."

Marsha Jones, chief diversity officer at PNC, said the company has kicked off various initiatives, including diversity training for all 50,000 employees, since her appointment in 2009. PNC put its name on banners promoting Pittsburgh Pride, it's playing festival announcements on video screens at its branches, and it's participating in PrideFest.

"We do have a booth staffed with a number of employee volunteers," Ms. Jones said. "I think we have a waiting list of volunteers, which I think demonstrates the resonance this has had with our employees."

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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