Pride March lures eclectic gathering in Pittsburgh

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The Supreme Court's pending decision on a law restricting federal recognition of same-sex marriage set the tone for the Pittsburgh Pride March through Downtown on Sunday -- from the marchers bearing signs demanding equality to the Renaissance City Choirs group singing about having the right to spend a fortune on wedding flowers.

But one group that wasn't there to make a political statement may have sent a different kind of message -- that the gay community is no longer on the sidelines of society in the way it once was.

The Cadets, a drum and bugle corps out of Lehigh County that has won 10 Drum Corps International world championships since 1983, participated for the first time. The group added a dollop of professionalism to a generally casual affair, moving precisely along Grant Street to Fifth Avenue and onto Liberty Avenue in trim maroon, gold and cream uniforms. The horns and percussion sections echoed through the tall buildings on either side.

"We do parades all the time," director George Hopkins said in a phone interview last week. He conceded the group hadn't done gay pride parades before, but he didn't really see the Pittsburgh event as a problem despite getting a few emails from concerned donors.

After all, the gig fit into The Cadets' intense summer touring schedule and the corps doesn't make distinctions about participation.

For some, The Cadets helped elevate Sunday's event to a new level, the way that a real marching band can. "We're so proud to have them here for the parade," said Larry Gubash of Oakdale.

He was one of the organizers of The Pittsburgh Pride Colorguard, a volunteer group that also marched but with slightly less polish. Although the 20 volunteers who twirled flags to tunes such as "Chapel of Love" know their way around a drop spin and a thumb roll, they had their first full rehearsal as a group earlier that day.

"I think we did phenomenally," said Mr. Gubash, noting the crowds along the sidewalks loved the performance. Every once in a while, the performers would run over and hand fake wedding rings to bystanders.

Despite on-and-off rain that seemed to come down harder as the parade drew to a close, the turnout looked strong to Christine L. Bryan, director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, the nonprofit group that organizes the Pittsburgh Pride weekend events.

"I've got thousands of people still here, dancing around in the rain," she said shortly after the parade. Pride Fest continued through the afternoon.

For the first time, the city's police chief -- acting chief Regina McDonald -- led the parade, she said. Politicians also showed, with Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto offering a few words from the grandstand.

There were a number of groups representing companies around town, including the Giant Eagle representatives in white T-shirts, the PNC crowd distinctive in orange and an Alcoa contingent in black.

Pittsburgh health care rivals UPMC and Highmark, which are locked in a battle over their future relationship, both sent large groups, with the former in purple and the latter in blue. Unfortunately, they were right next to each other in the line up. A request by one of the Highmark marchers to insert another group came too late to change the formation.

Meanwhile, as the parade kicked into gear, Squirrel Hill resident Zach Strassbinger watched The Cadets go by and clapped politely but wasn't all that interested, noting, "Today's about community."


Teresa F. Lindeman: or 412-263-2018.


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