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When asked if the layers of rainbow paint slowed her down, Hillary Herring of Southfield laughed and said “No, not at all. Actually it was kind of inspiring.”
By the end of the 5k Rainbow Run in Ferndale June 18, she was covered in red, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple-dyed corn starch which was thrown as she ran past. She wasn’t the only one. Five hundred runners took part, some choosing the 5k and others doing just two.
“This was not like other runs,” Herring said. “It was more fun and it inspired me to not do races that don’t help causes.” She explained that seeing the way all the community organizations, volunteers and sponsors came together, combined with the Pride booths and concert stage gave the Rainbow Run “a totally different feel.”
“I have done the American Heart Foundation Run, the Free Press Marathon, and runs in Ann Arbor and Dexter, but from now on I’m only going to do it if the profits go to charity. This one is perfect because it suits my beliefs and what I think is important, and I’d rather have my money go to that.”
The Rainbow Run and other Ferndale Pride events had various organizations involved, and multiple beneficiaries including Affirmations, Michigan AIDS Coalition, and The Ferndale Community Foundation which gives grants to other community projects. Over 30 volunteers took part in the planning process and over 100 volunteers came out to help. The Rainbow Run was an endeavor taken on by the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, and Project XYZ that organized Saturday’s Dyke March.
Herring finished the Rainbow Run in 26 minutes and 30 seconds, with plenty of time to rest before the grand ceremony: the closing of Rainbow Run and the official start of Ferndale Pride.
Here hundreds of rainbow-covered runners met with another hundred or so Pride attendees in front of the stage for speeches and a balloon release salute to the LGBT community. One-thousand bio-degradable balloons in all the colors of the rainbow were released by a line of elected officials including Oakland County Commissioners Craig Covey, Helaine Zack, Marsha Gershenson, and Jim Nash who is giving up his Commission seat in hopes of being elected Water Resource Director for Oakland County. Kevin Howley, who is currently running against L. Brooks Patterson for Oakland County Executive, was also there along with Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter and Oak Park Mayor Marian McClellan. State Representative Lisa Brown, who is now known as the State Representative who was censored by the state house Republicans for using the word “vagina” also attended.
The balloons were released and the festivities began, including the beer tent, multiple booths from organizations and vendors, a kids’ area, and music from the main stage and from the newly remodeled back patio of Orchid, one of Ferndale’s many mixed-company clubs.
New to Pride
Of course there was the usual attractive young people enjoying the opportunity to mingle attending the festivities. Merchants with rainbow necklaces, tank tops and caramel corn was everywhere. Politicians and activists speaking up for equality could be found amid a sea of colorful outfits and cheering, dancing people. But also among the hundreds of Pride-goers were several new faces to the Pride experience. There were a noticeable number of presumably straight parents with their gay teens and youth, getting to know their children’s peers and showing their love and support.
Eileen Long wore a Dyke March shirt when she left her home in the Auburn Hills area to join her daughter Audrey as a volunteer for the Ferndale Pride event. She admitted that it was a challenge accepting her beloved little girl as a lesbian. “When I was Audrey’s age I worked in the floral business and I had tons of gay friends. I was always so accepting. I didn’t think I had a homophobic bone in my body. But when she told me, it was like, different. It’s different when it’s your own child. Not like hate or anger, but I wanted to save her from a hard road. It struck me. And it took a while to get over that fear. But I love my daughter. I don’t want to miss out on her life and being there for her when there are those struggles. I don’t understand why some of these parents can cut off their children. We know people whose parents just took their stuff and threw it out on the lawn and said ‘get out.’
On the way to Ferndale, Eileen stopped at a gas station. Like any other day she got out to pump her gas, and went inside to pay. But just wearing the Dyke March shirt made the experience much different. “For the first time ever in my life I got that horrible judgmental look from others. I felt it for the first time and it made me feel so bad. These kids,” she said choking up a bit. “There are people that feel that judgment everywhere they go.”
Audrey not only came out, but she blossomed into what Eileen calls “a little dynamic powerhouse.” The 27-year-old Ferndale resident is on the board of the Dyke March and also one of the main organizers for Ferndale Pride. “I came with her the first year…and this year I came to volunteer for her. When she was growing up I would clean houses and I would bring her with me. She was always my right arm, always very helpful. And now I get to assist her. It makes me so proud.”
Her advice to other parents is just to love. “No matter what you face with your child, love them. Be sweet and patient and hope that things will work themselves out,” she said. “Your child needs and deserves your love.”
The theme of family love was evident in the Ferndale Pride planning. The kids’ tent was run by local moms and dads, and the Rainbow Run had a short family “run” where kids could join their parents and get paint thrown on them too. And in the afternoon a local family spoke about their experience adopting a gay teenager.
The afternoon Market Daze suffered a loss of attendees as heavy rains poured on downtown Ferndale, sending many of the families home and pushing the rest of the crowds into the bars, coffee shops and boutiques along 9 Mile and Woodward, giving the businesses – many of which are gay-owned or employ LGBT staff – an even bigger boost in sales than expected. Fortunately the sun came back out in the late afternoon and the Drag Show and after parties, another boost for business, carried on as scheduled.
Ferndale Pride Weekend had many individual events including the SE Michigan Dyke March and a Light the Night Walk where visitors heard from multiple groups about how they are affected by hate.
Covey said 7,000 people came out in total and there were no injuries or incidents. He said over 125 volunteers helped out the day of the festival and a core group of 20-30 on the planning committee. “One thing that makes this event so neat is that we had all sorts of folks come together with their own ideas to make one big festival. We had so much diversity on the planning committee that when everything came together we had a unique event that none of us could have imagined on our own.”