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Ready Steady Go: Pride Weekend is Upon Us

The Pride Center of Western New York organized this year's Pride Parade.

The Power of Pride

For the second year in a row, President Obama has declared June to be Gay Pride Month. For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Buffalo, June’s Pride Festival has always been an important chance to share their lifestyles and art with the rest of the city, as well as to celebrate.

After a long, gloomy winter, summer in Buffalo is certainly a relief for most residents. It usually means a trip down Elmwood for the Allentown Art Festival, stuffing bellies at the Buffalo Wing Festival, and rocking out at Thursday at the Square.

“Buffalo is known for their celebrations,” said Jorien Brock, director of the Pride Center of Western New York. And the first major event of the season is the annual Pride Festival.

This year marks a changing of the guard because for the first time the festival will be organized by the Pride Center. Their chosen theme: “The Power of Pride.”

They came up with the broad theme so that people from all walks of life could interpret it in a way that is meaningful to them, Brock said.

“Maybe it’s the power to love, or the power to marry, or the power to be one’s self,” said Brock, who has been the director of the Pride Center for nearly a year.

The center is a nonprofit organization formed in 1998 by individuals and business owners who wanted to help fight the challenges that members of the LGBT community in Western New York face. The Pride Festival has been going on for 19 years. Keeping the festival going is very important for the center and the community, Brock said. One of the primary goals for the center’s first Pride Festival is to make sure the parade stays true to the traditions the LGBT community is used to, Brock said.

Allentown bar owners like to build up anticipation for the event.

“It’s like a reunion,” said Q owner David Hoffman as he inspected the rainbow-colored decorations he put up in preparation for the festival. “You see a lot of people you haven’t seen in years.”

For many, Brock said, going to a pride festival is their first LGBT experience. “It’s often a very emotional time for folks.”

But it is also a time for fun and celebration, and that is why the center has added a few touches of their own to the festival. It will still include events like the annual Dyke March, which will be held on Saturday (June 5), but this year they’ve added a twist to the end of the march, a street festival in Allentown.

“It will really have that block party flavor to it,” Brock said. “In many ways Allentown is our ‘gayborhood.’”

Hoffman isn’t sure what to expect for the street festival on Saturday.

“It’s never been done before!” he said. “Everyone is in high spirits over it, though.”

Sunday’s part of the festival will be on the west side of Bidwell Parkway this year, where there will be a little more space, Brock said. And Q bartender Raphel Shillace agrees that they could use the room. He’s used to seeing lots of new faces, many of whom travel in from surrounding areas like Rochester and Hamilton.

“When you get to Bidwell, you’re like ‘Where the hell did all these people come from?’” Schillace said.

Other events include a fundraiser for the Dykes of Hazard, a local troupe of lesbian standup comedians, at Babeville, and the Second Annual Mr. & Miss Gay Pride Buffalo Pageant at Club Marcella on Friday.

Also on Friday will be the opening of an art exhibit at 464 Art Gallery and Blink Gallery on Amherst street called “Color: A Celebration of Local LGBT Art,” curate by Marcus Wise.

“I was looking for pieces that were vibrant or particularly expressive of the gay experience,” Wise said.

This is the second year that he has curated the exhibit, which features live music, colorful abstract paintings, and vivid photography. For Wise the Pride Festival is an opportunity to celebrate both Buffalo’s LGBT community and its arts community.

“I wanted to highlight the strengths that exist in both communities,” he said.

The parade begins Sunday (June 6) at 1pm; floats and parade marchers will line up at 1195 Main Street. The parade will travel down Elmwood to its final destination at Elmwood and Bidwell Parkway, where the festival will be held until 6pm.

For a complete list of Buffalo Pride Celebration festivities, visit

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