Tens of thousands of people of all stripes took to the streets Sunday for the 37th annual LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade, billed as the biggest gay-pride event in the nation. Gay couples, straight couples and families with kids — and, in many cases, parents and grandparents— lined Market Street in San Francisco to catch glimpses of floats and presentations from 200 different groups.
The weekend-long event draws people from all across the Bay Area, the country and even the world, who spend roughly $150 million in San Francisco while they’re here, according to Lindsay Jones, Pride’s executive director.
“It just gets better and better every year,” said Brett Anderson, a San Francisco resident who has attended the parade annually since 1989. He and Bernard Venter stood on the sidelines, both wearing Carmen Miranda headdresses, strings of rainbow beads and Hawaiian shirts.
Sunny weather, cool temperatures and a well-oiled team of volunteers kept the event running smoothly, Jones said. Police made a few arrests for marijuana possession and stopped some fights, but the crowd was predominantly well-behaved, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said.
For old-timers such as Anderson and Venter, the festival can be a get-away: “We’re both funeral directors. We take our work very seriously, but we play seriously, too,” Anderson said, sipping a cocktail from a red plastic tumbler.
The event was nothing if not star-studded. George Takei, the actor who played Mr. Sulu on the original “Star Trek” series and who revealed his homosexuality in 2005, rode with the Google contingent in Sunday’s parade.
Nikki Blonksky, who plays Tracy Turnblad in the new musical “Hairspray” with John Travolta, rocked the festival’s main stage Sunday afternoon, according to Jones.
“She had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of her hand,” Jones said.
Pride is an event where fun and politics mingle. It’s also an opportunity to hold San Francisco up as a model city, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom.
“This is a city of remarkable diversity. We take it for granted, and we shouldn’t,” Newsom said during a news conference Sunday. “People are looking to us to show that you can live together.”
Pride breaks ground because it makes the LGBT community more visible, according to San Francisco film critic Jan Wahl, who has appeared in the parade for the last 15 years.
“If you meet them, if you see their faces, you can’t hate,” Wahl said.
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