Oswego city holds first pride parade

Pride shirts are given to Oswego State students.  (Luke Parsnow | The Oswegonian)
Pride shirts are given to Oswego State students. (Luke Parsnow | The Oswegonian)

Communities throughout the U.S. gathered to celebrate National Coming Out Day, which celebrates the coming out of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) on Oct. 11.

Large cities like Philadelphia host events that attract nearly 40,000 people and Oswego celebrated the 26th anniversary of National Coming Out Day with the first annual Pride Parade and Festival.

“Twenty-six years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, we first observed National Coming Out Day as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10,” the Human Rights Campaign, which works to achieve equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community, wrote on its website.

Like Philadelphia’s annual block party, OutFest, which Philly Pride Presents claims as the largest National Coming Out event in the world, Oswego’s Pride Festival kicked off with a parade that began at 11 a.m. at Breitbeck Park.

“The parade was a lot of fun,” said Allie Stango, a sophomore broadcasting major at Oswego State. “A lot of people were dressed up in bright colors. Students from campus were wearing their National Coming Out Day T-shirts that either said ‘I Support Equality’ or ‘Out and Proud’ and, of course, the drag queens were a fun sight.”

When the parade ended at the corner of West First and West Schuyler Streets, everyone made their way over to the festival grounds at West Linear Park, where the fun began.

Festival goers were able to watch and participate in an all-ages, Disney-themed drag show, followed by local entertainment and activities for children. There was also food, crafts and merchandise vendors along with many nonprofit groups at the festival.

Many of the participants agreed that it represented National Coming Out Day well.

“The show was really funny, better than I expected,” said Greg Hoops, a 13-year-old New Jersey native visiting his sister at college. “There were craft tables for younger kids to make masks and games. I got a free shirt and button from one of the tables.”

“This really was a great all-ages event,” Greg Hoops’ mother, Carolyn Hoops said. “It showed children in a subtle way that members of the LGBTQ community are normal people, despite what stereotypes and rumors might say.

Despite two protesters that showed up at the festival, Kelly Scanlon, an intern for Oswego County Opportunities which helped run the event, said it went “without a hitch.”

Oswego’s first gay pride festival and parade was proposed by Gary L. Smith Jr., president of the Oswego Pride Committee, back in July and approved by the Oswego council that same month.

“We are so glad that the weather cooperated and that there was a great turnout for the events,” according to the Oswego Pride Festival’s website. “Keep an eye out for info about the next pride event.”