A lot of people don’t truly understand why we have pride festivals around the country.  What does it mean? Since we have marriage equality, do we still need Pride? The short answer is yes.

The long answer would go into detail about how society has been taught to shun and shame those who are LGBTQ. It would reflect on the beatings from both neighbors and police during the '50s and '60s. It most definitely would have the history of the Stonewall Inn, and what later turned into the Stonewall riots.Most of all, it would talk about how hard it is in our current society and every society in the past to be true to yourself out of fear of retribution. That’s why we have Pride Fest, or Pride Parades, or any similar celebration. It’s a time for all of those who are shunned and shamed for being different to come together and BE THEMSELVES. To show we have Pride in who we are, both inside and out and to feel safe with a community that understands.

Saturday, Grand Rapids and West Michigan celebrated the 28th Annual Pride Festival downtown at Calder Plaza. Just as other years, it was filled with people coming together to celebrate their community and differences. There was shopping, education, organizations offering their support and of course, entertainment.

This year, in the wake of the Orlando shooting just a week before at Pulse Night Club, it also has a bit of a different feeling. A feeling of remembrance, of enjoying each other just a little bit more; knowing that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and also how far we still have to go to end the hate and violence.

This year’s Pride fest was full of great moments, which started with the Hand in Hand event in Ah Nab Awen Park.

Grand Rapids Pride Festival

After that, the day moved to Calder Plaza and along Ottawa Avenue, with the street festival and entertainment.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss opened up the entertainment side of the event with a proclamation for the Grand Rapids Pride Festival

There was also a very touching tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting.

And of course plenty of entertainment from some great local artists to Steve Grand and Deborah Cox

Other than it being one of the hottest days of the year so far, it was a great turn out and great event.  Well done Pride Fest committee!

If you want to find out more about GR Pride Fest or the Grand Rapids Pride Center.. CLICK HERE