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LGBT Pride Event Expects Record Numbers

Members of Pittsburgh’s LGBT community and their supporters are expected to take to the streets in record numbers this Sunday during the annual Pride March, which is part of this week’s Pittsburgh Pride celebration.

Pittsburgh Pride is the largest LGBT festival in Pennsylvania, according to the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh. The nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the city’s LGBT community hosts and organizes the event, which runs from June 6 through June 15.

Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, says the main events of the week will begin on Friday with the Pub Crawl.

“It’s a chauffeured tour of the city’s LGBT-friendly restaurants and pubs, and there are eight buses that travel around to 14 different locations. With a ticket you get a coupon book for a special offer, and they can hop on and off the buses at their convenience,” explained Bryan. “It’s really the official kick off to the weekend.”

An outdoor concert called Pride in the Streets launches Saturday at 5:30 p.m., featuring Grammy-winner and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame nominee Chaka Khan.

Sunday’s events begin at 11am with a group wedding officiated by Mayor Bill Peduto for 20 same-sex couples. The private ceremony will be held in the Council Chambers of the City-County Building and will be broadcast on City Channel Pittsburgh. After the ceremony, the couples and the Mayor will participate in the Pride March. The march starts at noon at the corner of Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, and travels down Grant Street to Fifth Avenue, then to Liberty Avenue, and ends at PrideFest, an open-air celebration with street performers, food vendors and a performance by country music singer Steve Grand.

Pittsburgh Pride has existed since the 1970s, when pride events sprang up across the nation following the Stonewall Riots in New York City. The Delta Foundation took over Pittsburgh Pride in 2008, and the event has since grown from 3,000 annual attendees to 85,000 last year.

Bryan expects even more participants this year because of the predicted nice weather and excitement from what was dubbed Decision Day, when Federal Judge John E. Jones III struck down a ban on same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania. More than 130 organizations have registered to walk in the Pride March, which is the largest number in Pittsburgh Pride history, and Bryan anticipates at least 100,000 total participants over the 10 day period.

Many people are already in town for the Three Rivers Arts Festival, which Bryan said works well with Pride.

“We find that we have lots of similar cross-over in terms of audience, so there’s many, many people that will come down to the Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday, and then also come over to Pride in the Streets or PrideFest or watch the march on Sunday,” said Bryan.

The two events have been held simultaneously since 2008, and Bryan says that will not be changing any time soon.

“A thriving city is what makes Pittsburgh an exciting place for people to live and work, and so we love having our event at the same time as the Arts Festival,” said Bryan. “[Pittsburgh Pride and the arts festival] collaborate together very well, and while folks may see an increase in some traffic and parking, I think that most folks will agree that a thriving and exciting downtown is much more interesting than an empty city.”

While the Delta Foundation organizes Pittsburgh Pride, Bryan says the celebration would not be possible without substantial community engagement.

“We have a tremendous amount of support from Pittsburgh’s corporate community, who enable us to put on all the great events that we are able to do,” said Bryan. “I also have to thank our volunteers. The Delta Foundation is a staff of two people, and so we require about 300 volunteers for this weekend.”

According to Bryan, Pittsburgh Pride has never sparked much conflict, and she does not expect anything more than a handful of protesters at the parade.

“We are of course very aware that we’re going to have some folks that may not agree with some things, and that’s OK,” said Bryan. “We just want everybody to treat everybody with dignity and respect and really just have the most successful and safe event that we can possibly put on.”

Bryan says this event provides support for much of the city’s LGBT community, especially for youth struggling with their sexuality who face bullying or discrimination.

“I wish I could tell people the number of calls and the number of letters that we receive about why Pittsburgh Pride is so important to folks,” said Bryan. “Pittsburgh Pride is really a great time to celebrate how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go and remember those who we are standing on the shoulders of.”

Tickets, locations, times and a full list of Pride events can be found on the Pittsburgh Pride website.