Sarah Pfledderer / Arts editor
A flock of motorcycles revved its engines at the intersection of High Street and Front Street around noon Saturday. Onlookers lining the street bearing the beating sun in their rainbow accents including Mardi Gras beads, tutus, wings, bracelets and leis, cheered for the noise that acted as a rally for the attractions to follow.
Two women hung back from the rest of the riders that rode past Spring Street when the light turned green. The duo, dressed in black, stayed put, which provoked roars from the crowd as the women revved their engines louder and longer than the rest of the flock that had ridden off. Finally pleased with the crowd response, the women sped away as a sign held by eight men reading “Stonewall Columbus and Bud Light present Pride 2012” was welcomed by the already aroused crowd.
The 2012 Columbus Pride Parade took place Saturday, spanning from the intersection of Broad Street and High Street to Goodale Park. The parade was put on as part of the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, which is held annually in support of LGBT rights. This year’s 31st Pride Festival took place Friday through Saturday.
“Everybody is in a jubial happy mood. How about that? Everybody is happy. It’s a beautiful day!” said Mike Clemmons, retired, of South Carolina, who owns a condo off of High Street. Joking, Clemmons said he was the only Republican at the parade.
Clemmons’ wife, Yvonne Clemmons, sat on the curb as her husband stood on the street catching freebies, which he said was his favorite part of the event. Yvonne Clemmons said it was the fourth time the couple had attended the parade.
“We’ve been married for 30 years. We’re not gay, but we support these people’s rights,” Mike Clemmons chimed in.
National businesses and brands such as J.C. Penny, PNC Bank, Huntington Bank and Best Buy also showed their support. And local businesses such as Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Local Bar, Evolved Body Art and thrift store Out of the Closet participated as well.
While all the floats and parade participants advocated for LGBT rights, some also used the parade as an opportunity to campaign, such as Ryan P. Jolley and Heather Bishoff, who are running for state representative.
Another chunk of participants campaigned for President Barrack Obama’s reelection, holding a sign that read “LGBT Obama” and chanting “Four more years!” Others participating raised signs in LGBT support with messages such as “Homophobia is a choice” and “Be who you are…”
As the majority of participants dressed in t-shirts advertising their business or support, some opted to instead dress in drag or just underwear, and one woman even walked on stilts. However, no matter what the attire, rainbows seemed to be a staple.
For Emily Davenport, 18, of Columbus, it was her first time attending the event. Davenport, who is gay, said she attended to support those who are also gay, but found an even greater support for herself from the allies. “It’s really nice,” she said of the support. “I love it. It’s awesome.”
Britt Franks, 25, of Columbus, is also gay and attended the parade for her first time Saturday. Shrugging, she said she decided to go because, “Well, it’s gay pride.”
Franks said she most enjoyed that “everybody is here cheering for the same cause and you can be yourself.”
Attendees were relieved of the heat by water shot from squirt guns and were offered freebies including candy, condoms, fliers, bracelets and beads from the kids, senior citizens and middle-agers marching down High Street.
A few animals were in the mix of marchers as well, the majority being dogs and also a baby deer that sat on the lap of a rider on the float for Noah’s Arc Sanctuary. Marching bands, sprit teams and performers such as the Flaggots offered entertainment as well.
The nearly two-hour parade ended with a rainbow flag that spanned about half a block. A few protesters followed the parade down the sidewalk with signs reading messages such as “Jesus said go and sin no more John 8:11.”
As some attendees trailed behind the marchers, shouting, and others dispersed or ventured north to follow the parade, a street sweeper lagged about a block behind clearing the debris.
Yvonne Clemmons said this year’s parade seemed to be the biggest one yet with it lasting longer and there being more people cheering.
“Every time we’re here we try to come out and support it. It’s gotten bigger every year,” she said. “I’m glad to see Columbus is supporting all of this. I’m really proud of Columbus.”