The 44th anniversary of the Atlanta Pride Festival, a 2-day event, took place on Oct. 11-12 at Piedmont Park. The Atlanta Pride Committee presented the event, which was free and open to the public. The festival consisted of over 215 market stalls, entrepreneurs, organizations and parades. An estimated 250,000 individuals attended the festival throughout the weekend, making it the largest free outdoor festival in the Southeast.
Atlanta Pride is a place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and heterosexual allies to come together to celebrate equality and unity. This year the event coincided with National Coming Out Day, which is Oct. 11. This day gives those struggling with their sexuality an opportunity to “come out” in a safe environment.
“It gives us an incredible opportunity to allow these individuals at whatever age, a safe environment to come out,” said Glen Paul Freedman, board chair of the Atlanta Pride Committee (APC). “There are awesome organizations that will help those struggling.”
The APC helps create awareness of inequality issues within the LGBT community through these annual Pride festivals and marches.
“Everybody who is against us, the South is rising again and we are rising in a great way,” said Freedman about equality in the South. “Equality is coming to Georgia whether you like it or not.”
Freedman projects the next big push towards equality in Georgia is a comprehensive civil rights bill to protect individuals from getting fired from their jobs for identifying as LGBT.
The annual Trans March and Dyke March took place on Saturday afternoon. The Atlanta Pride Parade began at 1 p.m. on Sunday on the streets near the Civic Center, the MARTA Station, and LGBT bikers led the way. It continued onto Peachtree Street, 10th street and ended at the Charles Allen Gate entrance of Piedmont Park. Over 5,000 people participated in the Pride parade—including sponsors, organizations and businesses. Crowds of different demographics filled the streets to support equality of the LGBT community. The crowd was full of energy and rainbow flags soared throughout the parade.
“The same-sex movement that has been going on has energized everyone,” said Freedman.
Along with activities throughout Pride, there was also musical entertainment. The first artist, the Maria Gabriella Band, took the stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Coca-Cola Stage. Although it rained a bit on Saturday, it did not halt the performances. Local, regional and national talent performed throughout the weekend, including musicians such as Meghan Trainor, Lea Delaria from Orange is the New Black and this year’s headliner Colbie Calliat.
“They completely are on board with what we are trying to do and that kind of support goes a long way,” Freedman said about participating musicians.
Piedmont Park welcomed people of all different ages, races, genders and even protestors on both days of the festival. Peaceful protesting was only allowed outside of the park. Any individual causing trouble inside the park would be guided outside by security. No discrimination was the unwritten rule throughout the entire weekend.