Block party rocks city with GBLT pride
By: Scott Tady, Times Entertainment Writer
Event: Pittsburgh Pridefest parade, festival and block party
Date: Noon past midnight June 16
Place: downtown Pittsburgh and the North Shore.
Admission: free for the parade and festival. Block party tickets cost $10 in advance, $15 at the gate for the party. VIP party tickets cost $100, which includes open bar and access to a tented area.
Information: www.prideinthestreet.org or www.glccpgh.com
PITTSBURGH – Rainbow flags will be flying high June 16 for Pittsburgh Pridefest, a daylong event celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles.
“This will be the biggest, largest pride event to take place in Pittsburgh,” said spokesman Tom Schneck.
A noon parade will march from Ross Street down Fifth and Liberty avenues Downtown, crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge to the North Shore, next to Heinz Field. Dozens of vendors will be set up for an alcohol-free festival that lasts until 5 p.m., with entertainment from the Renaissance City Choir; singers Eric Himan, Tracy Drach and Poppy Chaplin, performance arts group Dreams of Hope and female impersonator Jezebel Bebbington D’Opulence.
Then at 8 p.m., Liberty Avenue will close to traffic between ninth and 10th streets for a Pride in the Street block party and dance lasting until 1 a.m. Main stage performers will include 1980s pop star Tiffany, best known for her version of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and acclaimed circuit deejays Julian Marsh and DJ DeMarko. Every party needs a host, and for Pittsburgh Pridefest the honor falls to Bruce Vilanch, a TV writer and star of the game show “Hollywood Squares.”
You might think you’re at Mardi Gras – or Key West – as gay and lesbian bars like Images Pittsburgh, the 941 Saloon and House of Tilden pour booze that can be consumed on the street.
“The Pride festival and parade have been family friendly, but one of the things that we’ve heard was needed was a party element, or adult entertainment, which happens in every other city, even comparable sized cities like Columbus and Cleveland,” Pridefest organizer Gary Van Horn said.
Hence the launch this year of the block party, which will occur simultaneously with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, a sold-out Benedum Center performance of “High School Musical” and a Pittsburgh Pirates home skirmish with American Leaguers the Chicago White Sox.
“There’ll be enough people in town who will say if there’s a party going on, we’re going to enjoy it,” Van Horn said. “The arts festival has been very much in support of it because, obviously, a lot of people in the arts community are open-minded. So I think you’ll see people say let’s go to the dance party in the street after we check out the arts festival.”
Timed to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, many North American cities host Gay Pride weeks. “But Pittsburgh’s has kind of been the weakest one,” Schneck said.
The city’s first known pride event took place in June 1973, when 150 gays and lesbians marched from Market Square to Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park. Pittsburgh had no official gay pride events through the 1980s, Scheck said. A small celebration was launched in Shadyside in 1991, and occurred annually in that community until moving Downtown in 2004.
In recent years, many out-of-town visitors have come to Pittsburgh and left disappointed they didn’t find a vibrant and visible gay club scene as portrayed from 2000 to 2005 in the Steel City-set Showtime drama “Queer as Folk” (which was filmed in Toronto.)
But with a promotional campaign this year that stretches beyond Pittsburgh’s city limits, Pridefest officials hope their event will help change perceptions.
“Getting it to where gay and lesbian bars are involved this year is a significant move,” Schneck said.
And getting the city’s permission to shut down a major street also will help with visibility, Van Horn said. “The event has grown each year, so it’s time to put it on the map,” Van Horn said.
Scott Tady can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.