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By Sarah Mieras
GRAND RAPIDS –
Organizers estimate 4,000 people passed through the gates of West Michigan Pride on Saturday, June 21. The 20th anniversary of the Grand Rapids event included a commitment ceremony, carnival style games, drag bingo and a diverse stage line-up.
“This has gone beyond our wildest dreams,” said Pride Chair Mike Mello. “Today has been a perfect culmination of an amazing committee, a wonderful variety of vendors and a strong sense of excitement in the community for the event.”
Financial numbers to back up the success of the event weren’t available at press time. Operating under the Pride Partnership plan, any proceeds from the festival all cycled back to non-profit groups in West Michigan. In July, the organizing committee will file paperwork to become an independent 501(c)3 organization, separating itself from The Network.
“The Network will still work with Pride, but they won’t have to be worried with the day-to-day operations,” said committee member John Czerney.
Although the festival lacked any political speakers or calls to action, Czerney believes bringing the community together to celebrate who they are is inherently political, especially in West Michigan.
“For me this keeps the idea of equality alive,” he said. “All too often it is sidetracked. Just because we watch TV and go to the bar, that doesn’t mean we have our rights.”