Expanded Portland festival to show 'pride'

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PORTLAND — This year’s Pride celebration, which gets underway in the city next week, is more than just the traditional parade and festival.

The festivities begin with a 5:30 p.m. rally at City Hall on Friday, and end with a tea dance on Sunday, June 22, from 12:30-5 p.m. at the Inn on Peaks Island.

The 10-day series of events, organized by Pride Portland with primary sponsorship by Equality Maine, has something for everyone – from kickball to bingo – in an expanded recognition of the city’s gay, lesbian and transgender communities.

“When Chris (O’Connor) and I became co-chairs and founded Pride Portland, we wanted it to be about meeting the needs of Portland,” Jill Barkley said June 6.

O’Connor and  she volunteered this winter to take over duties of the former parade and festival organizer, Southern Maine Pride. The two quickly found plenty of input, Barkley said.

“Chris and I view our role as saying ‘yes,’ inspiring people to take leadership,” she said. “And so many people have stepped up.”

This year’s parade on Saturday, June 21, will be led by U.S. 2nd District Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, and runs from Monument Square to Deering Oaks Park, along Congress and High streets and Park Avenue.

Michaud, who came out in 2013 to announce that he is gay, is his party’s nominee in this year’s gubernatorial race, facing incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.

Joining Michaud as grand marshals are Sarah Holmes, who coordinates the University of Southern Maine Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, and the Maines family.

The family successfully sued what is now Regional School Unit 26, based in Orono, after the school district in 2007 banned transgender Nicole Maines from using the girls bathrooms. The right of transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice was upheld in January by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Barkley said the grand marshals exemplify the strides that have been made toward acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender communities, but the festival will also show there is more work to be done.

“We still see bullying of of gay, lesbian and transgender youth in schools and we have an aging LGBT population here,” she said. “We have to make sure services are inclusive and welcoming for them.”

Before the parade and festival on June 21, the First Parish Church at 425 Congress St. will host a 9 a.m. interfaith service. The festival then runs from 1-5 p.m. and the evening is capped with a dance party at Port City Music Hall at 504 Congress St. from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Also on Saturday, the Rainbow 5K Run and Walk along Back Cove begins at 8 a.m., and the Pride Ball kickball tournament starts at 11 a.m. on Preble Street Field.

Nightlife will be abundant through the week beginning Monday, June 16, with a community dinner in Fort Sumner Park at 5:30 p.m. On Tuesday, June 17, there will be a 7:30 p.m. sing-along to music from “The Wizard of Oz” on the roof of the USM parking garage, and drag bingo is scheduled for Wednesday evening, June 18, at Blackstone’s on Pine Street and Styxx on Spring Street.

The week also features a time of reflection and a presentation on activism in the gay and lesbian community during the 1970s. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at the Rines Auditorium in the Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way.

The Ocean Gateway Terminal off Commercial Street will be the site of the Spirit of Pride Summer Party at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 19, and the party moves south to Ogunquit on Friday, June 20, for an 8 p.m. dance party at Mainestreet, 195 Main St.

For more information on festival times, events and sponsors, visit prideportland.org.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.