Marchers hold signs, throw freebies, and wave banners and balloons at onlookers at the 2018 Pride Parade in Columbus. Credit: Olivia Britt | For The Lantern

People from all walks of life came out to paint the town rainbow this weekend in celebration of the city’s 38th annual Pride Festival.

The Columbus Pride Festival — hosted by Stonewall Columbus, a central Ohio LGBTQ community organization — started Friday and lasted through Sunday.The parade took place on Saturday morning.

While only several hundred people attended Columbus’s first Pride march in 1981, more than 500,000 people were expected to take to the streets this weekend, according to the Stonewall Columbus Pride Guide.

Pride marches mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, and Stonewall Columbus continues the tradition to “pay tribute to all who fought and died for this cause, and to salute all who live and continue the march toward full equality,” according to the guide.

A 2015 alumnus of Ohio State, Kyle Hatfield, marched in the parade with his employer, CoverMyMeds, a company Hatfield said is very supportive of the LGBTQ community.

Despite having just walked miles through the parade, Hatfield said he stayed a few hours after the parade finished to enjoy the ensuing festival.

“I think the festival in some regards, whether or not the person actually attends, makes a statement of saying, ‘It’s OK for you to express who you are,’” Hatfield said.

Hatfield said sharing the experience of the parade with his coworkers was his favorite part of the festival this year.

This year’s grand marshal for the parade was Andrew Levitt, a famous drag queen better known as Nina West, who recently won Miss Congeniality on season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Levitt founded The Nina West Fund to support the LGBTQ community and is responsible for raising over $2 million for charities in central Ohio as well as some national organizations.

Some of these organizations include the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the Ronald McDonald House, Planned Parenthood, Equitas Health, ACLU and Family Pride Network.

The festival ended Sunday afternoon at The Greater Columbus Convention Center with a brunch to honor Levitt as well as special guest Jake Borelli, an actor known for his role in “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Bryant Maddox, an attendee of the festival, said his favorite part of the weekend was watching the parade from above as he sat on a balcony.

Though this was only his second year attending Columbus’ Pride, Maddox said he appreciates how well the city supports and organizes the events.

“I think Columbus does a really good job… I know some places you have to pay to get into their festival and it is a lot more chaotic,” Maddox said.