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by Sharon Gittleman
Ferndale- For some, it was the chance to scope out clubs, pick up some rainbow gear or take your first bite of summertime festival food that made the Motor City Pride fair so much fun. For others, it’s the people who manned the booths along Nine Mile Road and the crowd itself the created the day’s joy.
This year’s street party didn’t disappoint. Blustery winds and sheets of rain may have herded most onlookers under booth canopies, but it didn’t deter visitors to Mike Fitzpatrick and his fellow volunteers’ spot.
Fitzpatrick, dressed in a blue print lady’s tank suit,tried to lure passersby into giving the dunk tank a try.
He encouraged people to take their chances sitting on a trap door above the water, while their companions stood a few paces from an attached target. In the center of the bulls-eye was a photo, to add a little inspiration to the softball toss.
You could select a picture of any politician you liked, as long as it was a republican. Portraits of Britney Spears and Michael Jackson were also available for those nursing a grudge for more highbrow entertainment. Youngsters didn’t need any help finding reasons to dunk their parents.
“Children get two throws free,” he said. “We want to be fair.”
Last year, volunteers raised $564 for the Triangle Foundation with the dunk tank.
Nearby, same gender couples walked fearlessly hand in hand, pushed baby carriages or held leashes clipped to collars of dogs of every description.
A chubby bulldog lumbered near a teacup-size Chihuahua who nuzzled a black Great Dane. A greyhound allowed fair visitors to pet him while some puzzled at which
end was which when they saw a silky-haired black and white Pomeranian.
Jenelle Harden and her husband Bill Harden brought border terriers Oscar and Sophie with them to the festival.
While the two dogs lavished kisses on one woman who stooped down to pet them, one of the creatures gave a certain BTL reporter a nip on the hand. The dogs’ companions were just one of several straight couples that decided to come to the fair.
“We’re from Ferndale,” said Jenelle Harden. “It’s fun and we support equal rights.”
Abbie LaForest and her husband Brad Boza came with their two little girls. Their children took turns riding the mechanical pony on the sidewalk in front of the American Pop store.
Some LGBT festival-goers raised eyebrows when they saw the family enjoying the street party.
“We’ve had a couple of weird looks,” said LaForest.
“But, we have a lot of LGBT friends. We think it’s a good place to bring the kids and see it as they are growing up.”
Byron McCormick signed up for the email list of WeRFamilyUSA.com. The group encourages straight and LGBT people to enjoy social gatherings together.
“They do a lot of family activities,” said McCormick.
“A lot of the groups are too focused on one single group. This is open to everyone. I can meet more people.”
WeRFamilyUSA spokesperson Randy Stewart said his organization was formed to give people an option for making new friends at venues other than bars.
In the past, they’ve gotten together to bowl, go to the zoo and to play WhirlyBall. The group plans to join up with an Affirmations Community Center trip to Cedar Point in the near future. Stewart remembers taking his first rollercoaster ride as a child.
“My aunt told me if you get scared, we can get off at any time. We got up there and I said, ‘okay.’ She said, ‘well, I lied,'” said Stewart. “I ended up enjoying it.”
Athletes encouraged attendees to stop by their booths and get active in their sport. Dan Fantore, with the Motor City Tennis Alliance, called out to the crowd to give a match or two a try.
“There’s nothing like playing tennis with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and having a great time,” he said. “We have people who play for the social pleasure, some play for exercise and some are very serious.”
Todd Stanton joined the group three years ago.
“I love tennis and wanted to meet other gay people,” he said.
Tennis is more than it seems to non-players.
“There’s a lot of strategy, where to hit the ball to try to get your opponent off-balance or to expose your opponent’s weakness – it’s like a chess game with a physical aspect,” he said.
Whether you wanted to shake the mayor’s hand, learn about a new sport or dunk your significant other in a tank of cold water, Motor City Pride was the place to be last weekend.