PITTSBURGH PRIDE HISTORY
Since 1973, the humid dog days of Pittsburgh summers have harbingered an annual LGBT Pride Parade. While many may think that Pittsburgh Pride is a recent star in Pittsburgh’s LGBT constellation, our pride parades actually have a venerable, albeit somewhat checkered history, varying in attendance but touching many East End neighborhoods, from Downtown to Shadyside.
PITTSBURGH PRIDE TIMELINE
2006: Pride Not Prejudice
The Pride Awareness March kicked off downtown and included PA Governor Ed Rendell. Led by the Dykes on Bikes contingent and grand marshal Susan Hough, the parade started downtown and finished at Riverfront Park on the North Shore. The Steel City Softball League held the honor of carrying the Rainbow Flag in recognition of their 25th anniversary. Performances included Lenora Nemitz, Renaissance City Choirs, Cindy Shaffer, Kierra Darshell, Lisa Ferraro, Diamond, Jonathan, and Brad Yoder. New this year was the addition of 2nd stage, which was a Dance Stage. Capping the days’ festivities was Pride night at PNC Park, with a portion of ticket sales benefitting the GLCC. There was a pre-game Pride Picnic before the group saw the Pirates play the Minnesota Twins. New the year was the Friends of Pride campaign, which gave individuals the ability to be a sponsor.
2005: Equal Rights. No More. No Less.
The Pride Committee reached out to LGBT organizations in Erie, Butler, Wheeling, Johnstown, Altoona, and Morgantown among others, and invited them to join the festivities. The parade, with Grand Marshals Jim Huggins and Randy Forrester at the helm, snaked through downtown, across the Allegheny River to Riverfront Park on the North Shore. PFLAG Pittsburgh carried the 100-foot Rainbow Flag and new to the parade was the Doggie Drag Creative Costume Contest, which benefitted the Western PA Humane Society. Entertainment included the Renaissance City Choirs, Dreams of Hope, Patrick Arena, Proudly Presents Productions, Stacy lee Lucas, numerous drag kings and queens, and the high-energy band Bootlickers. A children’s activity area was added for the first time and Pride Night at PNC Park was held the prior week.
2004: Stand Up! Stand Proud! Stand Together!
More than 2,100 people and 50 vendors attended the festival on the North Shore’s Great Lawn, and 600 people and 43 units participated in the parade. Responding to requests to move the event to a more visible location, the Pride Parade started downtown and wound around through the Three Rivers Arts Festival, ending on the North Shore. There was a wide range of activities throughout the month including Stand Up and Yell! Bingo, held in the parking lot off Ellsworth Avenue, a special performance of Varla Jean Merman, under a Big Top at the City Theatre; Standing Together with Pride, a pageant of diversity benefiting The Seven Project, a parade and festival, as well as Pride Day at PNC Park, as the Pirates played the Seattle Mariners.
2003: Peace Through Pride
Pittsburgh marked 30 years of celebrating Pride with a parade and street festival in Shadyside. Marchers followed a route through Shadyside which ended at the 5800 block of Ellsworth Avenue. Leading up to PrideFest were a series of activities including the Unity Ball, an all-ages sweetheart dance on the Gateway Clipper, the 2nd annual Mr. Pittsburgh Drag King Pageant, a Pride Run/Walk, and a performance by the gay/lesbian sketch comedy/cabaret trio Unitard.
2002: We are your Neighbors
Undeterred by the misfortunes of 2001, the GLCC Pride committee returned the parade to Shadyside, but chose Ellsworth Avenue over Mellon Park as the site for the festival. Ample participation in the parade pushed the crowd size to an estimated 10,000 people before–once again–a drenching rain soaked the festival.
2001: Embrace Diversity
In 2001, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) took over Pride, organizing and moving the event away from Mellon Park. The new Pride Committee’s choice of Flagstaff Hill did not materialize, and it settled for Schenley Meadow. But, it wasn’t the permit snafu that caused a dampening effect. Heavy rains soaked the city for much of the morning and only stopped when the Squirrel Hill parade arrived. The stage line-up of singers, poets, and speakers was once of the best ever.
The parades returned in 1991 when almost 500 queers and friends traveled to the Point from the Civic Arena. The next year marked a parade apex: nearly 1,000 marchers regained the Civic Arena-Point trail! Unfortunately, rain dampened the success of the 1993 Civic Arena/Point march, and attendance fell to 400.
Pride marches plunged into a Dark Ages in the 1980s, and no parades occurred until a renaissance trek in May, 1991.
On June 22, marchers trooped across Shadyside, this time from Morewood and Fifth to Mellon Park on the Point Breeze border.
In 1979, queers hit the asphalt in more residential settings. On June 24, 120 participants marched through Shadyside and Bellefield, from Ellsworth Avenue to Flagstaff Hill.
Pittsburgh’s first Pride Parade occurred on June 17, only four years after the Stonewall riots in New York City. About 150 hardy marchers trekked uphill from Market Square to Flagstaff Hill in Oakland. The day before, Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh (GAP) chartered a “mod painted” streetcar as part of “Gay Trolley Day.” The queer streetcar traveled from Market Square, through Castle Shannon, Dormont, Beechview and back to downtown. That evening a dance was held at the Unitarian Church.
In 1974, the second lesbian and gay pride parade was held on June 23, followed by a picnic in South Park.
Organizers truncated the route in 1975. That year, on June 22, an undetermined number of community members and supporters jaunted downhill from the Civic Arena to Point State Park.
In 1976, a militant troupe wended a serpentine way from the Civic Arena to the Federal Building, where they made demands of the federal government. The group continued to crosscross the Golden Triangle, issuing rights demands at the City-County Building, the Catholic Diocese Building and Point State Park.
2000: Take Pride. Take Joy. Take Action.
The June 17, 2000 Pride Parade and festival continued the tradition of a Shadyside march and Mellon Park festival and was the final Pride event organized by the Three Rivers Pride Committee, which formed to produce the 1994 events.
1999: Prideful Past, Powerful Future
Pride festival stage producer Ted Hoover said following about the 1999 event: “Whatever else I’ll remember from Pride Fest ’99, the top of the list would be the little corner of Mellon Park that the Asian & Friends people made their own. It was five or six pagoda roofs, one suspended from the next, each covered with a glittering color of the rainbow. It was truly stunning, and I loved the way it combined groovy symbols of both queer and Pacific Rim culture. And with a strap here and some velcro there, it would make a dress the likes of which Patti O’Fernicher can only dream about.”
1998: Unity Through Diversity
1997: Equality Through Visibility
1996: Pride Without Borders
1995: Pride – From Silence to Celebration
1994: Stonewall 25—A Global Celebration of Lesbian & Gay Pride & Protest
In 1994, attendance fell further when the Pride committee was stymied by the City’s insistence that the march proceed along the mythical “construction” occurring on Fifth Avenue. Determined marchers followed the route to Market Square, which crossed over a deserted and unobstructed Fifth Avenue.