Rick Cornett remembers 20 years ago when Toledo’s LGBT community was secretive and hidden from the public.
“People were afraid to be seen. They didn’t want the media focusing on them, they didn’t want to attend a march or a parade or a festival,” he says. “They were just in fear of their families, their coworkers, their jobs, their churches finding out.”
Now, Cornett is part of the planning committee for Toledo Pride 2013, a three-day celebration of the city’s LGBT community, something he never expected all those years ago.
‘Day to shine’
The annual event, now in its fourth year, will feature multiple festivities across the city, including races, food, music and more.
“It’s the gay community’s day to shine,” Cornett says. “This is our day to come alive and be out there, loud and proud.”
The celebrations start Friday, Aug. 23, with the Nite Glo 5K, a 3.2 mile race through a colorfully lit and decorated University of Toledo (over 150 people participated in last year’s race despite the pouring rain, and more are expected to compete this year). “Sunday Funday,” a more family-oriented event, will take place at Owens Community College on Sunday, Aug. 25.
The main attraction of Toledo Pride, though, will be the downtown parade and festival in Promenade Park on Saturday, Aug. 24. A huge assembly of gay and allied groups, some with self-built floats, will march through downtown Toledo before celebrating well into the night at Promenade Park with live music, boat rides on the Sandpiper cruise vessel, and a drag show.
Cornett expects between 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend this year’s celebration, a huge increase from the 10,000 who attended last year, making Toledo Pride the largest LGBT community celebration in Northwest Ohio.
A chance to connect
Toledo Pride’s growing popularity is a prime example of the nation’s changing views on gay rights. Cornett notes that the number of protesters and hecklers diminishes every year, while more people join the events.
“It’s a big deal for the gay community to have an open event where we’re not hiding from the public like we had to do for so many years,” he says.
Building off of this progress, several educational, support and religious groups, as well as vendors will be present at the festival, giving LGBT-identifiers and allies the chance to connect with other community members and learn about what others are doing for the LGBT community.
“So many of the younger gay people coming out don’t know about all this stuff, they don’t know where to turn,” Cornett says. “[We] let them know that we do have an active and live gay community here in Toledo. It’s not all just bars; there’s a lot more to it.”
For more information on all of the Toledo Pride 2013 events, visit toledopride.com.