On Saturday, June 15, Rhode Island’s LGBT community held their 37th annual Pride celebration in Providence. The day featured sunny skies, lots of heat and passionate performances from several local entertainers.
This year’s theme, “Love Forward,” signifies the freedom for people to love whom they want. The recent passage of marriage equality legislation in the Ocean State, as well as in Delaware and Minnesota, are proof of a society moving forward and becoming inclusive of same-sex couples.
Thousands of people flooded the streets of Providence to cheer on the marchers and floats featured in the Nighttime Illuminated Parade (see video).
Parade Grand Marshals were State Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Warwick) and his husband Tony Caparco, who have been together for over 31 years and have been married for the last seven. Ferri has been a leader in the fight for marriage equality and was a former co-chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI). The other Grand Marshal was attorney Mary Bonauto of Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Bonauto represented same-sex couples in Massachusetts, which paved the way for gay marriage to become legal in that state.
Many of the floats at this year’s parade featured wedding themes. Popular drag queen Sabrina Blaze wore a wedding cake hat topped with two grooms, which delighted the onlookers.
P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, and Youth Pride, Inc. (YPI) were among the organizations participating in the parade.
This year’s festival was held for the third year in a row on South Water Street, alongside the Providence River. In past years the event was held at Station Park, across from the State House.
Belle Pellegrino, a veteran of the first RI Pride celebration in 1976, reflected on how Pride has changed through the years.
“I think I can safely speak for the ’76’ers’ when I say we are so awed to see the growth in what we began and are humbled to have been a part of this all,” Pellegrino said. “Knowing we were able to help start RI off on this journey to equality is a memory we will carry with us always.”
This year’s headliner was Thea Austin, lead singer of the pop group Snap.
Pride also featured special performances by Alexis Mateo from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jackie Collins, Nova Starr, Ursula and the Glitterati, the Imperial Court of RI, and the Becky Chase Band. Emcees included Miss Kitty Litter, Jacqueline DiMera, Vi’Let, Ellen Moschetto, Haley Star, and Genesis.
Vendors manned booths all along South Water Street selling Pride merchandise, including clothing, jewelry and other trinkets.
AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and Human Rights Campaign all were on hand to gather support for their services.
The festivities continued well into the night, with block parties and special events being held all over the city.