Of all the visually arresting images that paraded down 4th Street from Coolidge Avenue to Ogden Avenue for the 11th annual Las Vegas Pride Parade, a pair of loving lesbians may be the hardest to forget
It’s not because they were beautiful, though they were. It’s because they embodied the energetic, optimistic spirit of the entire event, which claimed Downtown as its own starting with a platoon of bikers, followed by a couple high school cheerleading squads, scores of drag queens and dozens of sparkly, rainbow-colored floats. Women kissed women and men, men and both cheered for the various entourages. Glowsticks, beads, confetti and condoms flew through the air into outstretched hands.
“In just about every event we’ve seen growth, and our favorite events – we hosted 20 events over Pride Week, April 24th-May 3rd—have been phenomenal,” said Jake Naylor, President of the Southern Nevada Association of Pride, the organizers of the parade and the week’s festivities.
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The parade served as an official kickoff and welcoming ceremony for Pride 2009, which includes nightlife events, concerts and other festivities.
While a selection of the police officers monitoring the proceedings reported that no incidents had occurred, the parade did not go unchallenged. Swearing could be heard as the procession passed by some areas and the end of the parade the procession was greeted by some booing and thrown cups by a group carrying anti-gay signs.
However, their attempt at parade-raining hardly dampened the crowds’ high spirits.
“This is what pride is all about. We’re united! I’m a proud fag!” stated Joshua Smithson, 20, from West Virginia, who stood happily and proudly on the sidelines with his friend, Alex Lima, 29, from Las Vegas.
Smithson said he decided to visit Las Vegas and participate in the parade after he was taunted and called a fag in his West Virginia hometown. It was his and Lima’s first Pride Parade, and Lima only recently came out to his friends and family. “This is the first time I’ve come out and been proud of who I am,” Lima said.
Lima and Smithson were not alone. “We want to give encouragement to our community,” said parade participant Navenka Ouvari, 22, “Most people don’t know how many homosexuals there are and how important they are to the community. So, I think it’s important to show how many people there are and why it’s important to have equal rights.”
Legendary Vegas entertainer Frank Marino acted as the parade’s Grand Marshal. Jew Di Vine was crowned Miss Las Vegas Pride and Travis Winship Mr. Las Vegas Pride. Tomorrow the 2009 Pride Festival will run from noon to 10 p.m. at the Clark County Government Center. The winners of the parade float contest will be announced at 3:10 p.m.