by Jessica Carreras
FERNDALE – Nothing was going to stop Rebekah Seeloi of Warren from coming out to Ferndale’s Motor City Pride festival on Sunday – not even the torrential downpour that began just an hour after the celebration started. She had a friend, Ted Jankovic, to support.
“Friends stick together,” she said, huddling under a tent next to Jankovic as the worst of the storm fell overhead and rivers of rainwater flowed by their feet. “Plus,” she added, “I love the music.”
The rain that fell erratically throughout the day kept the festival’s turnout to around 20,000 – almost half of what it was last year. However, the weather wasn’t enough to keep those who did come from enjoying the booths, music and dance floor, complete with a disco ball and pounding beats. Soaked visitors grooved to the pounding bass beats while two men, one clad only in silver short shorts and bondage-like ties around his legs and the other in bright blue shorts and a neck tie, danced out front as an enthusiastic audience gathered around them, cheering them on.
“We came out to show pride,” said Terri Dinsmore, 37, of Montrose, who braved the weather with her partner, Candy Freman. The two have been going to Ferndale and Lansing’s festivals for years and weren’t going to let a little – or a lot – of rain stop them from their tradition.
“It only comes once a year,” said Freman, 39, “so we had to come out.”
Though the dance floor garnered a lot of attention, there were several informational booths and tents that enjoyed a decent turnout as well, including a history tent showcasing a time line of famous gays and information about how pride festivals came to be.
When visitors were done learning history, they could visit other informational booths, including the Triangle Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign and Michigan Equality, which had a booth dedicated to teaching them about current issues for the LGBT community. “We’re really committed to traveling to all of the pride festivals,” said Crystal Flood, a college intern with the group. “We’re trying to build support and awareness of what rights are being taken away.”
Becoming aware is just what LaQuetta M. Ramsey, 34, came to do. Attending for the third year in a row, Ramsey showed her pride with buttons, stickers and rainbow-colored beads around her neck.
“I love it,” said Ramsey, who perused the history tent. “It gives you a chance to learn more.” However, her favorite part, she admitted, was the jewelry available at many of the booths.
She wasn’t alone in her thinking. Dozens of people flocked to booths selling goods, most of which was accessories like sunglasses, jewelry and body jewelry. Some sales booths, however, were not so traditional. At the booth run by sexyunderwear4u.com, a model stood under the shelter of his tent wearing nothing but a pair of the company’s briefs. “This is our first year,” said Bradley O’Connell of Warren. “We’ve sold some pairs so far, despite the rain.”
This year’s festival began Sunday morning with the 3rd annual family picnic at Martin Road Park which, thankfully, happened before the rain began. “There were a fair amount of families there, mostly same-sex,” said Debbie Warnock, who worked at the picnic and later, at the tent where children had their faces painted and did arts and crafts.
For those young and old, with or without families, there was plenty to do at Sunday’s festival. Besides innumerable booths to visit and an area for those 21 and older, there were performances throughout the day at both stages. Audiences were entertained at the main stage was filled with comedians, singers and the winners of the 4th annual Motor City Pride Idol, Jean Luc and Shaton.
A half hour break in the festivities came as people gathered around Affirmations, located on nine mile in the heart of downtown Ferndale, for their grand opening ceremony at 1:45 p.m.
“I’m happy that this center is here,” said Ferndale native Roger, 54, who watched the ribbon cutting from under his umbrella. “It’s important to have such a supportive place for people to go.”
Although he is straight, Roger explained that he believed it was good for all people to come out and show their support for the LGBT community. “Black, white, gay, straight – it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You just have to be there.”