Pittsburgh Pride festival planners expect record crowds
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With increasing success each year, expectations are high for Pittsburgh Pride 2012, the city's premier festival to recognize and celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
A project of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pride 2012 kicks off today and is expected to draw record crowds.
"Last year, our estimated attendance was around 67,000 folks, making us the fifth largest special event in the city of Pittsburgh," said Christine Bryan, the Delta Foundation's marketing director. "We've doubled our attendance every year for the past several years, so we're anticipating record-setting numbers this year."
Academy Award and two-time Grammy winner Melissa Etheridge's presence at the festival won't hurt those chances.
She will be performing a 90-minute concert at Pride in the Street on June 9. The outdoor party, starting at 6 p.m., will be held on Liberty Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets.
Ms. Etheridge will be taking the stage around 8:45 p.m., but other entertainment is planned for before and after her performance.
Today's Pride Advocacy Rally, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the City-County Building, marks the first of several events that will be taking place through next weekend.
Both the Pride Awareness March and PrideFest will be held June 10, making for an especially busy day at the festival.
Last year, the Pride Awareness March was made possible by more than 120 organizations that walked Downtown streets. Those groups represented people in and out of the LGBT community who all had the common goal of supporting it.
"A city that is made up of diverse people is attractive to people who are looking to move here or work here," Ms. Bryan said.
This year's Pride festival theme is "Pride in the Name of Love," which Ms. Bryan believes speaks to the foundation's cause of gaining equal rights for gays.
"While Pennsylvania still doesn't have general employment protections, let alone marriage equality, the fight will continue for equal rights," she said. "We know that people's hearts and minds are changing."
The debate over gay marriage has been reinvigorated on the national stage since President Obama voiced his support in early May. Only a handful of states allows marriage between members of the same sex, with Pennsylvania falling outside of that group.
However, Ms. Bryan believes that Pittsburgh is "very much an accepting city" of the LGBT community, citing the rise is participation at events such as Pittsburgh Pride and continued support from corporate sponsors as positive indicators.
"We continue to have more and more corporate support, largely driven by their employees who want to be involved," she said.
Support from sponsors has allowed the festival's events to be either free of charge or offered at a discounted price, a key ingredient for the week's success.
"Because of the support that we receive from our sponsors, which include UPMC, Highmark, and PNC Financial Services to name a few, and especially Mayor Ravenstahl and the City of Pittsburgh, we're proud that we're able to keep our ticket prices very reasonable," said Ms. Bryan.
PrideFest will mark the culmination of Pittsburgh Pride 2012, a daylong event that features street performers, musical entertainment, carnival games, and inflatable attractions.
The free celebration will take place on Liberty Avenue between Sixth and 10th streets. For a full list of attractions, visit www.pittsburghpride.org.
With six planned events being held around the city during the course of the week, Pittsburgh Pride has gained the reputation as one of the major festivals in the United States.
"Pittsburgh Pride, in comparison to other cities' gay pride events, stacks up well," Ms. Bryan said. "Other cities have even contacted us for advice when planning their events."
With roots tracing back to the early 1970s, Pittsburgh Pride has evolved significantly since its inception, and this year's festival has the ingredients to keep the tradition and awareness growing.
First Published June 1, 2012 12:00 am