An Indivisible Pride RI Turns 40

Pride Festival on South Water Street – Saturday Daytime
RI Pride will host a daytime festival on South Water St all day long on Sat, Jun 20 that is free and open to the public. Festival goers will be treated to a variety of informational and fun booths and displays. Food trucks, food vendors, organizational booth and informational tables will line the festival grounds. A bar with certified bartenders is available on festival grounds and is open to those 21 and older (with proper ID). A center stage provides entertainment and performances all day long, ranging from spoken word, to poetry, songs, music and dance. A large play area for children is being provided this year by Hasbro. Youth Pride, Inc, will also have a designated area for youths ages 14-23.
Feel free to donate to Pride as you enter the festival and please pick up after yourself so we can keep the festival site clean and be good to Mother Earth.

In Between
Before the famously infamous parade is a period some call “The Tween.” During the Tween – and into the wee hours of the night, many bars will sponsor street block parties, which will feature additional DJs, dance floors, stages and bars. ‘90s dance-hit staples Taylor Dayne and Amber are slated to perform at Dark Lady and The Village, respectively. Bartenders were already practicing their shirtless street-side shot serving techniques at the recent PVD International Arts Festival – expect them to take it to a whole new level for PRIDE. Come early, stay late, or both. Drink responsibly. Respect others. Have a lot of fun.

Light It Up
RI Pride is New England’s only night-time illuminated parade. The parade begins at 8:45pm – and builds its own light as it wends its way through downtown to the delight of spectators, who line the street along the parade route and to the delight – and sometimes dismay – of passersby, convention goers, downtown diners and others. Visible lighting, floats from the sublime to the outrageous to the even more outrageous and a wide variety of costumes and accoutrements, all combine to create a sense of surreality. Photos of Pride almost always look like they were run through every Photoshop filter available, backward. But no, that’s what’s actually happening. The theme of this year’s Pride is IndiVISIBLE. It’s not all just about the fun – we must remain out and open to advance the cause of equality and acceptance. Support that fundamental precept by marching – with or without glowsticks or fashion statements. But go outrageous to embrace the larger-than-life part of the experience.

Parade VIPs
The Grand Marshal will be Mr. Billy Mencer Ackerly, who will lead this year’s parade. In doing so, he will march in his 40th consecutive RI Pride march. Billy first marched in the 1976 parade, which makes him part of the small group now known as the ‘76ers. Some of these first marchers put brown paper bags over their heads to hide their identity so they wouldn’t be fired or evicted or face similar consequences. We owe these folks and subsequent marchers, so much. Thank you, Billy and all the ‘76ers. We stand on your shoulders. We love you.
Pam Goff, founder of the BornThisWay prom, will serve as Honorary Marshal. As a member of Interweave at Channing Memorial Church in Newport, Pam has worked for years on programs for LGBTQ youth.

The other Honorary Marshal is AIDS Care Ocean State, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Parade Marchers
Various groups, businesses, bars, churches, candidates and organizations will march in separate contingencies throughout the night. The bars will have large floats, some with flatbed trailers and many with scantily clad bois or leather men. Some will host dancers, dancing troupes and go-go boys. Others will host groups marching together by walking with banners, such as the Brown LGBTQ alumni group, PFLAG and others.
Spectators are asked to watch the parade and cheer on the participants. Those marching have paid entrance fees and have organized to do so. If you plan to watch the parade, please do so with cheer, a smile and friendly respect for the marchers and the organizers.
Some groups and Pride itself will provide water stations throughout the parade route for the marchers. It can be quite hot or humid during the march. Please make way for marchers as they hydrate and continue in the march.

If you are fortunate enough to watch the parade from a restaurant bar or table, enjoy your favorite cocktail or fun Pride libation. Alternatively, you can enjoy a view from certain hotel rooms. If you don’t have a room by now, then it’s probably too late, unless you’re starting to plan for next year. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on parade floats, with parade entries or for spectators on the street.

Parade Route Change
The parade route will be different this year due to the Tosh.0 show at PVD Performing Arts Center (PPAC) that night. In years past, the parade ended at the judging stand in front of PPAC. There’s still a judging stand and the parade still ends – only now the culmination and judging stand will be on Empire St near AS220. Don’t get lost! Thanks to the wonderful Jen Bonin for her work on the parade route map.