BY AJ TRAGER
FERNDALE – Through torrential downpour and small pockets of sunshine, Ferndale Pride launched Michigan’s Pride season.
Thousands braved the weather last weekend and gathered on Nine Mile in downtown Ferndale to celebrate the first of many 2015 Michigan Pride festivals. While the weather may have been wet and muggy, attendees of Pride gathered before the main stage, enjoyed dancing and met new and old friends.
Pride began early in the morning with the Annual Rainbow Run, hosted by the Ferndale Chamber, covering participants in vibrant non-toxic colors. Jami Contreras and Krista Dornfried-Contreras ran with their daughter Bay Windsor; the family made news earlier this year when a pediatrician refused to treat them because they were an LGBT family.
The festival itself officially began with a balloon release ceremony, where volunteers and Pride-goers launched hundreds of rainbow colored, biodegradable balloons into the sky. In honor of Just For Us co-owner Kevin Rogers who passed away earlier this year, black balloons were added to the rainbow.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t get a lot of acceptance in the community, or any community, and I think it is important for people to know that it’s okay to be who you are — how you are,” Sarah Gretkierewiecz said.
She was there with her friends Alex Chester, Sarah Lechel and Sydney Martin who had all stopped by the Affirmations booth to get stickers.
“I’m at Pride because it is such a loving environment. I love being here. I am wearing my free hugs T-shirt, and I get so many hugs. Everybody is so loving and happy. It makes you feel accepted,” Gretkierewiecz said.
Miles Bond, Najee Jones, Eric Totaro and Brandon Harrison were hanging out by the DJ booth when approached by BTL. They have a long history of friendship that started in high school and continued when they enrolled at the University of Michigan. This year wasn’t their first Ferndale Pride experience, and they expect to arrive in Hart Plaza for Motor City Pride June 6-7.
“Ferndale isn’t as big as Detroit and is really known for its gay-friendly atmosphere. So it is a better mixture of people,” Harrison said. “Coming out to Pride is important, to co-mingle and interact with other gay people. It is really affirming.”
With the U.S. Supreme Court decision right around the corner, many couples at Pride were concerned about marriage and where, if at all, they would host their ceremony.
“Next year I would like to get married,” said Bond. “It’s my happiness. I want to have the same rights that all my other straight friends have. I want to be able to show my love for someone in the way that is allowed for straight people but not allowed for me.”
Tracy Hudson and her soon to be wife, Cheri Belton, were inside Rosie O’Grady’s with their friend Heidi Hiegel after most vendors packed up to get out of the rain. Hudson and Belton would like to get married in Michigan. They got engaged a year ago in August and are hoping for an affirming SCOTUS decision that would allow them to get married in the state. Otherwise, they will go to a nearby LGBT-friendly state like Illinois for the ceremony.
“This is where we live. We feel like we should be able to have the same rights as any other couple that loves one another and then be able to do that and pledge that love before God and all of our friends, whether they are gay or heterosexual,” Hudson said.
“This is such a welcoming community. I think that for all of the states, I would like to see people be more open and for the state of Michigan to see how accepting this community (the LGBT community) actually is,” Hudson said.
Main stage bands moved into the Twisted Tavern with adult Pride attendees spending the remaining daylight hours celebrating in packed local bars.