Gay pride parade comes out at 2nd Saturdays

October 4, 2011

By Teya Vitu


Pride on Parade will be a prominent component of Oct. 8’s Second Saturdays, the first time the annual LGBT parade has gone mainstream, let alone in front of upwards of 10,000 people that turn out for the monthly festivities.

“Usually we have maybe 130 people,” said Karon Bohlender, president of Tucson Pride, the non-profit that states Pride on Parade and on Oct. 15 Pride in the Desert at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“This is our coming out mainstream event. We get to say ‘Hi, we’re here. We’re just like you. We’re not different.’”

Pride on Parade starts at 8 p.m. at Pennington Street and Sixth Avenue. The parade will go one block south on Sixth, turn right onto Congress Street, turn right again on Stone, and finish back on Pennington.

The streets will be closed to traffic from 7 to 9 p.m. for the parade.

Bohlender expects 40 to 50 parade entrants including vehicles, floats, other organizations, politicians and candidates. The parade’s grand marshals are Wendell Hicks, executive director of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, Dr. Heather Moroso, founder of Positively Beautiful, Scott Blades, executive director of the Tucson Interfaith HIV Awareness Network and Jeffrey Scott of the AIDS ribbon.

“It’s a lot of rainbows,” Bohlender said. “It’s like every other parade except we have rainbows with ours.

The local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community has put on a parade since the early 2000s but always at times and locations that had minimal mainstream exposure. The early years had Sunday morning parades on 4th Avenue. They moved to Friday night before Pride in the Desert with the parade down Country Club Road from Broadway to Reid Park in 2007-08. The parade went back to 4th Avenue the past two years, still on the Friday nights before Pride in the Desert.

“This year we’re hoping by collaborating with 2nd Saturdays, we get to present ourselves to the larger community,” Bohlender said.

Tucson Pride is the oldest gay pride organization in the state, active now for 34 years.

Bohlender was referred to the Festivals and Events Association of Southern Arizona, where Tucson Meet Yourself organizer Mia Hansen warmed up to incorporating Pride on Parade into TMY but also suggested teaming up with 2nd Saturdays.

“I went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade during 2nd Saturdays,” Bohlender said. “Hey, this could work.”

Bohlender did not realize how big a draw 2nd Saturdays was until Tucson Police told her to expect 10,000 to 12,000 people.

“Really? This is really huge,” Bohlender said at the time.

Tucson Meet Yourself, 2nd Saturdays and Tucson Pride representatives met to bring Pride on Parade to 2nd Saturdays, which has become a monthly avenue to collaborate with other events.

“All the dots got connected,” Bohlender said. “This is going to be a fantastic night . We have music on our float.”

Sapphire Lounge will host a Tucson Pink Party for the LGBT community that evening starting at 7 p.m.

For Bohlender, it’s particularly noteworthy that this is the first Pride parade since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy was repealed.

“I was at West Point before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” she said. “My partner was in the military. We will have flags of all five branches with us.”

Parade organizers have joked that this parade will put the local gay community on the map.

“Our hope for doing this is more people can get a glimpse of who we are as a community,” Bohlender said. “We’re just like everybody else.”