By Graig Graziosi
Pride Youngstown’s seventh annual Pride Festival will be returning to downtown Youngstown Saturday June 7.
Tim Bortner, president of Youngstown State University’s LGBT student organization YSUnity, is the vendor coordinator for the event.
“This year the event will take place over two days — June 12 and 13 — on Federal Plaza east in front of Joe Maxx Cafe, same place as last year,” Bortner said. “We have 60 vendors and a lot more performers this year — singers, bands, hoola hoop performers, drag performers. All kinds of acts.”
Floyd McCluskey, the festival chairman for 2015, is working alongside Bortner and the festival’s entertainment director to put on the event, which is boasting an expanded entertainment lineup this year.
“We actually have a larger entertainment line up. We have a group called Don’t H8 Incorporated coming all the way from North Carolina. They’re an anti-bullying troupe featuring drag performers, dancers, singers … they’re all in one group and will be performing Friday,” McCluskey said. “I think on Saturday we have around 51 performances that will occur. We’ll have drag performers, the Infinity Tribe hoop dancers and a local punk band Them Bastards.”
The two-day event is a put on each year by Pride Youngstown, an LGBT activism organization whose stated purpose is to strengthen equality and increase awareness of LGBT issues in the community at large.
In keeping with that ideal, McCluskey has worked to include a tribute to the Stonewall Inn at this year’s Pride festival.
“We’re including a Stonewall tribute this year because we want more history involved. We want to remind everyone in the LGBT community what it took to get to a point where we could even have a Pride event. We want people to know what it took to get the rights to even have a festival,” McCluskey said.
Stonewall is a reference to the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar that was the site of a riot following a series of discriminatory police raids at the establishment and other gay bars around the city. The demonstration is regarded as one of the seminal events of the modern gay rights movement.
This year’s festival will be sponsored in part by YSU. In years past, the university has bought space at the event, but this will be their first year officially sponsoring.
“[YSU] has sponsored us at our Harvey Milk level this year. It’s their fifth year supporting the festival and their first year sponsoring,” Bortner said.
For Bortner, having his alma mater sign on as a sponsor was more significant than a simple financial contribution.
“It was very important for me as an LGBT student at YSU for the college to be at the festival. Important for me and important for all the other LGBT students as well … [YSU’s sponsorship] shows me the administration supports us,” Bortner said. “I’ve known for years that they’ve been very supportive, but it makes me happy and feel more safe knowing we go to a campus that supports us 100 percent.”