From Friday through Sunday, Youngstown Pride Weekend will take over the city.
The weekend’s events — including a parade and festival — will be hosted by Pride Youngstown, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to education and to the commemoration of the LGBT heritage,” according to the group’s website, located at http://www.prideyoungstown.com.
Anita Davis, chairwoman of Pride Youngstown, said the events can bring people together. In addition, they can help correct misconceptions, since they offer people the chance to see for themselves.
“They come out and they find out, ‘Oh my gosh. They kind of act like everybody else,’” she said.
But Davis said the goal is to raise awareness, not acceptance. “I don’t want somebody’s acceptance,” she said. “I just need you to respect my rights.”
The celebration is open to all ages and all sexual orientations.
The event kicks off 6 p.m. Friday with a casual open reception at the Mahoning County Democratic Party headquarters, located at 3321 Mahoning Ave. Admission is $5, and refreshments will be served. Individuals who made contributions to the LGBT community will be honored.
The parade will start at noon on Saturday at the corner of Woodland Avenue and Market Street. The parade, which will feature a range of costumes and music, will go over the Market Street Bridge, then through downtown’s Central Square. Local writer and performer Robert Joki will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
The festival, which is set to begin at 12:30 p.m., will feature numerous food and merchandise vendors, as well as two stages hosting performances from singers, comedians, musicians and dancers. A beer tent will also be set up. Admission for the festival is $1, although VIP seating is available for an additional charge.
In addition, an after party will be held downtown from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is $5. At midnight, a candle-lighting ceremony to honor members of the LGBT community who have been the victims of hate crimes will be held.
A family picnic at the B&O Station Park on Sunday will conclude this year’s celebration. The picnic, which features entertainment and face painting, will begin at 1 p.m. and last until 6 p.m. Youth Pride, an gay-straight alliance of local teenagers, will host the event, which is free to the public. Free hot dogs, pop and chips will be provided to the first 300 people.
Amanda Sigler, a recent graduate of Youngstown State University, said she plans to attend Pride Youngstown’s weekend celebrations. She said similar events allow people to celebrate their differences — and help others realize that those differences are really quite small.
“Straight people need to advocate for gay rights because it isn’t a gay issue,” Sigler said. “It is a human rights issue and affects us all.” Anthony Visingardi, a junior at YSU, said his straight friends and family members support his lifestyle and will support him regardless of his sexual orientation.
He added that Pride Youngstown’s weekend events have “a good cause.”
“Everyone should be created and loved equally,” Visingardi said.