Philly Pride Parade makes Market St. 'Gayborhood for a Day'

The Flaggots, the oldest LGBT color guard in the country, performs for the 26th consecutive time at the Philly Pride Parade, which stretched from the Gayborhood to Penn's Landing. June 18th, 2017. CAMERON B. POLLACK / Staff Photographer

Thousands of spectators cheered Sunday’s irresistibly joyful Philly Pride Parade as it wound its way from 13th and Locust Streets to the Independence Mall judging stand, where it turned Market Street into a vibrant Gayborhood-for-a-day, then headed to Penn’s Landing for the afternoon LGBT Pride Festival.

The festivities were presided over by Tina Montgomery, Miss Philly LGBT Pride 2017, and Molasses Jones, Mr. Philly LGBT Pride 2017, who also won the Mr. Philly Drag King competition at the Philadelphia Dyke March by performing as his alter ego, Old Man Realness.

“I was inspired by my father, Darryl Richardson, who died in September 2016,” Jones said, leaning on his Old Man Realness cane. “I used my father’s love of Motown and his smooth-talking jive. I proved you can be sexy at my age, which is 81. I danced and lip-synched to Motown hits and to Bruno Mars.  Trust me. No one wants to hear my voice.”

The floats of  dancers, singers, rainbow bead necklace tossers, and confetti cannoneers included Urban Outfitters’ crowd-pleasing dance party on wheels, which was rocking the float so hard that it was amazing the platform stayed on the axles.

“We won best float last year and we’re hoping to bring it home again,” said A.J. Quon, the company’s social media man, who helped inflate beach-party-style floaties for 150 paraders wearing “Love Is Love” and “Pride Won’t Hide” T-shirts.

Sitting on the Locust Street sidewalk near 13th before the parade, Urban Outfitters’ global marketing director, Stacey Britt Fitzgerald, watched her children, Emma Hine, 7, and Grayson Hine, 5, hand pump air into a flamingo floatie that was bigger than both of them and said, “We’re part of a queer family, so it’s important to be here and support the community, and for the children to experience their first Philly Pride Parade.”

 

The crowds cheered everyone from three cowboys riding horses from the Keystone State Gay Rodeo Association while a fourth walked behind the horses, pushing a wheelbarrow, to gay roller skaters to a group of athletic guys who kept shouting, “Gay! Sports! Gay! Sports!”

Gay and straight cheerleaders from Cheer DC in Washington, which performs to support LGBTQ causes, were joined by former San Francisco cheerleader and current Philadelphia lawyer Meagan Gordon, who promised that a Cheer Philly chapter would be coming here soon.

Josh Schonewolf, who produces LGBTQ cabaret shows including Songbird, an annual talent search for the best singer in the Philly Gayborhood, brought 40 burlesque and drag show all-stars, who performed to the Spice Girls’ “Stop” because, Schonewolf said with a laugh, “We’re trying to be as gay as possible.”

Local burlesque diva Liberty Rose, decked out in an elaborate arrangement of rainbow ruffles, said, “I am a queer woman. So it’s important to me to walk proudly in the parade wearing these rainbow ruffles I designed myself. Because of the heat, I am wearing nothing underneath the ruffles.”

 

Henri David, the seemingly ageless master of ceremonies, decked out from head to toe in an eye-popping array of glittering pastel colors, some of which have never been seen on a rainbow in nature, showed his Philly Pride mettle when his float blew a tire on Locust Street, soon after the parade started. David got out and walked to the judges’ reviewing stand at Independence Mall.

The Philly Naked Bike Ride made its first pride parade appearance, fully clothed. “They were forced to wear clothing!” moaned the parade announcer. “What kind of a country is this?”

Joe Stapleton, from South Philly, brought his children Jake, 14, and Hannah, 16, to their first Philly Pride Parade because, he said, “It’s important that our kids learn acceptance and love for everyone in our community.”

His wife, Dena Yassky, said, “We want to show allegiance to our neighbors.”

“A lot of our family members have LGBT issues,” Stapleton said. “We are fighting for their rights. Sometimes, it feels like the country is taking a step backward.  We’re showing solidarity so we don’t go backward in terms of progress.”

Stapleton brought plenty of water for the family dog, Mumford, a big, friendly English pointer with some boxer mixed in, who happily greeted parade watchers, wearing rainbow bead necklaces he had received from the marchers.

The modern Philly Pride celebration began in 1988 with a spontaneous LGBT parade from 13th and Locust Streets, later labeled the Gayborhood, and proceeded to a Lesbian and Gay Task Force rally in LOVE Park. Shortly thereafter, Philly Pride Presents was created to present an annual gay pride parade and festival. Sunday was PrideDay’s 29th birthday.