Ferndale Pride 2018 proved to be the city’s most robust and inclusive celebration yet, as thousands descended upon West Nine Mile Road on Saturday, June 2, for a day full of dancing, live entertainment and unity among the LGBTQ community.
Kicked off by Ferndale’s Mayor Dave Coulter on the Motor City Hotel main stage, he emphasized the importance of LGBTQ visibility and support in trying political times.
” … if you want to know why we still need to gather, why we still need to come together and be visible, loud and outspoken and be ourselves, it’s because there are still people like the president of the United States that would take this country backward and reverse the rights and the gains that we have made,” Coulter said. “And we’re not going to let him. So, I’m so excited to have you all here.”
Photos by Drew Howard, Eve Kucharski and Jem Zero:
Then, Coulter introduced Congressman Sandy Levin to the platform to highlight his longtime support of Ferndale and that this year will be his last in office. Levin expressed his support for both Ferndale and its LGBTQ community members.
“It’s such a great pleasure to join everyone here at Ferndale Pride. We have a lot of pride in this city and it’s provided such leadership,” Levin said. “So, it’s a pleasure to be here with my family, to be here with my son, to be here with all of you.”
Ferndale Pride Event Chair Julia Music then took the stage and wrapped up the event’s opening remarks with a reminder to remember those who have fought for LGBTQ rights long before Ferndale’s annual event.
“Today the entire LGBTQAI community and their allies come together to remember those we lost, and those who have struggled for our ability to be who we are,” Music said. “We come together to celebrate love, humanity and the uniqueness that makes us one of a kind. We gather to find support, resources and smiles.”
It was then that supportive city council members and local politicians participated in a rainbow balloon launch to bring the event to an official start.
Ferndale Pride’s street fair began promptly at 1 p.m. and featured 40 percent more vendors than last year’s celebration. Among the new booths were organizations supporting the asexual and intersex communities, two identity groups that in years past have lacked representation.
At the Ann Arbor Area Asexuals booth, festival-goers had the opportunity to chat with members of the community and purchase asexual accessories, including the group’s flag and bracelets styled with the flag colors. Michelle Gaddis, a key organizer behind Ann Arbor Area Asexuals, spoke with BTL on the importance of having a booth at Ferndale Pride.
“We’re lucky to be here,” Gaddis said. “We’re trying to promote visibility – it’s still kind of an unknown thing … Ferndale Pride is an awesome event, and Ferndale is such an LGBTQ-friendly town. I’d say even more so than Ann Arbor.”
The Asexual community — or “ACE” for short – was also celebrated with its own balloon launch at 12:45 p.m., before opening remarks were made. The launch was the first of its kind at Ferndale Pride. Prior to the launch, the ACE community was given yet another shout out when a couple, one of whom was a member of the Ann Arbor Area Asexuals, publicly got married at the festival’s main stage.
Elsewhere at Pride, it was business as usual. Walking through the crowded street, visitors would be hard-pressed to spot a festival-goer who wasn’t either sporting rainbow attire, navigating the pavement in six-inch stilettos, carrying LGBTQ merchandise or chasing down the Ferndale Pride mascot for a quick selfie.
As is tradition, Ferndale Pride’s mascot Gordon Matson made himself present in all corners of the festival carrying his customary Pride flag while greeting attendees. This year, Matson could also be seen wearing a tall, papal miter. He said he changed up his typical rainbow headdress at the 11th hour in honor of a BTL cover story labeling him as the “Pope of Pride.”
Speaking with BTL, Matson joked that he had no idea where the name came from but was happy to embrace the title nevertheless.
“The article on me comes out, and it says I’m the Pope of Pride,” Matson said. “Where in the hell did that come from? So, my fiancé and I put this together last night.”
Another Ferndale Pride attendee drawing crowds was Dolly, a lesbian poodle seen strutting the streets in her freshly painted nails and Pride bandana.
Dolly’s owner, Dennis Martin, described her as “fabulous, like me,” and confirmed that she gets her nails painted every week with a different color.
“She was rescued from a puppy mill,” Martin told BTL. “Her name was Daisy Rose. When she got in my car, I immediately changed it to Dolly. I’m a fan of Dolly Parton.”
In addition to being pet-friendly, Ferndale Pride organizers have made a point every year to facilitate a family-friendly environment. BTL spoke with several first-time Pride attendees to discuss what the event meant to them.
“I got invited with my friend to go here because I’ve never been,” a teen told BTL. “And because I don’t get accepted by my parents. This is an accepting place to just, be. It’s good.”
“I want to show acceptance for all the people who don’t get acceptance out here, and to have fun with my friends,” another teen said, who began darting around the crowd requesting fist bumps from anyone and everyone following our conversation.
Another teen who spoke with BTL, said this was their first Pride event since coming out several months ago.
“I’m here because it’s really fun, and it’s a really happy place,” they said.
Pride festivities continued past the street fair’s hours of operations as attendees made their way to local businesses like Rosie O’Grady’s and Pop’s Italian to keep the party going.
For more information on the Ferndale Pride 2018 groups representing the asexual and intersex communities, please visit ferndalepride.com. More information about the Ann Arbor Area Asexuals can be found online at gaybe.am/Cy.