ColGay Pride had a greater turnout this year, not just in terms of people who passed through the festival for a few minutes of their day, but also people who stayed for up to all five hours in the hot sun. Many, including Mayor Teresa Tomlinson who opened the festival, braved the sun and humidity to participate and raise awareness about LGBT-relevant issues, rights and advancements.
Many more booths and tents were present along the Broadway walk in front of the Uptown Stage this year: Georgia Equality, the South Florida/Northern Virginia-based All Things Pride, and even the heavily-dolled-up Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Atlanta chapter). CV Pride Community Center, the parent organization of which historically hosts the sole Pride festival in the city (in September at Flat Rock Park), was a presence at ColGay Pride this year, passing out promotional fliers, Mardi Gras-type bead necklaces, and free lemonade from a booth shared with The Health Initiative, the Atlanta-based LGBT health awareness organization.
Sociopolitical booths were present as well, such as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s LGBT Caucus which shared space with NOW Columbus and solicited signups for the Hillary 2016 mailing list. The Southern Anti-Racism Network (aka Project SARN) was also present with a booth.
Speakers included representatives of many of the organizations present in the booths, in addition to representatives from government, healthcare and student activism.
At the end of the festival, participants lined up to participate in a Pride March up Broadway to 13th Street and back down to the stage. As far as is known, this is the first-ever LGBT Pride March in Uptown Columbus. No negative responses were heard from those passed by the march.
The festival could not have gone more smoothly, even on a humid, oppressive June day between the historic downtown buildings of Uptown Columbus.
Questions for the Future
The questions which stick in my mind, however, are the following:
- Following this greater turnout, how will Pride-branded event organizers in Columbus manage the range of expression for Pride functions? Despite initial trepidations about acceptable drag personas, the sequins, makeup and flowing dresses of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence managed to win genuinely-inquisitive questions and attendance to their booth from many patrons. No one visibly raised a stink about the Sisters’ combination of conservative-yet-flashy garb with full beards and ‘staches at Colgay, which may say more about the acceptability of certain “types” of public drag in these parts of the Southeast (compare the Sisters’ flowing dresses downtown to the more revealing drag that one may see at CV Pride Festival in the deep of Flat Rock Park).
- Can publicly-placed, high-visibility events like Colgay Pride offer greater opportunities for LGBT consumers, professionals and tourists? This took place in the heart of a downtown area, with businesses potentially benefitting from participants and passers-by who ate or drank at surrounding restaurants. Perhaps this business-friendly model is one to see take place more often in small cities like Columbus.
- Did this event succeed in educating passers-through about LGBT issues?
- What will result from this event over the course of the year, or at least toward the next legislative session?
All of this may very well be answered by way of watching the local reaction to whatever decision is made this month at the Supreme Court on marriage equality, or the inevitable revival of RFRA next year in the General Assembly. However, more events are planned throughout the rest of the year by Colgay Pride, Georgia Equality and other organizations to continue the momentum of awareness and visibility in the local area.