June 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm EDT | by Steve Charing
Celebration meets politics at Baltimore Pride
Baltimore Pride parade, gay news, Washington Blade

Thousands enjoyed flawless weather at the 37th annual Baltimore Pride festivities last weekend, which had a more political vibe this year given the referendum battle over marriage equality. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With sun-splashed, comfortably warm temperatures adding to an already festive atmosphere, the organizers of Baltimore’s 37th annual Pride could not have ordered up a more perfect weekend for June 16-17. In the past, Pride-goers typically had to endure steamy, sticky conditions.

Following the traditional high-heel race, the parade traveled up Charles Street through Mount Vernon with its array of floats, marchers and vehicles. Colorful confetti, beads, candy and a host of other items were tossed to onlookers that were at least five deep on both sides of the street at certain points along the route.

A total of 76 units participated—a new record, according to Donald Young, Pride Parade coordinator. Young also co-emceed the event with Shawnna Alexander. Taking part were representatives from most of Baltimore’s bars and clubs, including The Lodge in Boonsboro, Md., a large assortment of LGBT and LGBT-friendly organizations and businesses, health organizations and political groups.

The parade’s Grand Marshal, June Horner, 75, a PFLAG Mom, marched with her gay son Mark. Horner eschewed a closed vehicle and opted to walk the route.

Three judges evaluated the entries. The Best Car/Motorcycle entry was awarded to C.O.M.M.A.N.D., a leather organization. Euforia—Latina night from the Club Hippo—won the Best Marching Group category. And AIDS Action Baltimore took the Best Float prize.

“I feel that Baltimore Pride 2012 was a huge success,” said Young. “I had a great team to work with, especially Trevor Ankeny and Gary Wolnitzek (president and director of programs, respectively of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore that produces Pride).”

“These two individuals made my work at running the parade and high heel race so easy and I am proud and honored to have served on the same team with them.”

At the conclusion of the parade, the merriment transitioned to the Baltimore Pride Block Party that attracted thousands of LGBT folks, allies and neighborhood residents. The throng spread beyond the normal confines of Eager and Charles Streets to nearby parking lots where tailgating parties, complete with DJ-led beat-thumping music, ensued. Food and beverage vendors as well as those offering LGBT-related clothing and accessories were available. A couple of “adult” performers, Max Ryder and Pierre Fitch, courtesy of TLA/Gay.com, were in a new Adult Zone to pose for photos.

A series of entertainers, headlined by British-born and New York-based Neon Hitch, rocked the party.

On Sunday, the venue shifted to Druid Hill Park. An estimated crowd of more than 5,000 attended the slightly less frenetic festival where some 80 vendors from LGBT organizations and friendly businesses lined the paths to offer their services or wares.

The 2012 edition of Baltimore Pride had a stronger political feel than usual given the looming referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the presidential election in November. More than a dozen volunteers and paid staff of Marylanders for Marriage Equality combed the area handing out stickers, canvassing attendees and urging them to sign pledge forms that signify their intent to vote for marriage equality. Obama campaign representatives sought donations, sold T-shirts and enlisted volunteers. The Human Rights Campaign also staffed a booth at the festival.

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland and Karess Taylor-Hughes from the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign delivered brief speeches.

Baltimore Pride is the principal fundraiser for the GLCCB.

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