Fabulous with a chance of rainbows: so reads the forecast for the weekend of June 28, when a crowd of hundreds of thousands will converge on Hennepin Avenue and Loring Park. Their mission? To celebrate the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival. The year 2013 marks the 41st time that LGBT individuals and their supporters have gathered for Pride, and this year, there is certainly cause for celebration. Barely six months after Minnesota became the first state to defeat an attempted constitutional ban of marriage for same-sex couples, Minnesota lawmakers turned around to legalize just that. On Aug. 1, 2013, same-sex couples will be able to legally marry in our Land of 10,000 Lakes.
As we celebrate this landmark victory with what is scheduled to be the largest Pride in Minnesota history, it’s important that we look back to see just how far we’ve come. Pride has not always been the spectacle we know and love, complete with its colorful parade, multiple concert stages, and incredible Minnesota corn dogs. But despite the extravagance we see today, Pride still can have the same powerful purpose it did in 1972, when a group of around 100 students gathered in the northeast corner of Loring Park for a picnic and small rally to remember the Stonewall riots of 1969. It was one year before the American Psychiatric Association would remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and two years before the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul would adopt gay rights ordinances. Likely, no one from that first picnic could have imagined how the world would change, and how Pride would grow.
But grow it did. Attendance increased slowly but steadily through the ‘70s, with live music appearing in 1975. 1977 saw the rise of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children,” and although the city of St. Paul repealed its gay rights ordinance in 1978 as a result of rising homophobic fervor, the Twin Cities Pride Festival carried on, reaching 2,000 attendees in 1980.
That same year, the Pride Committee sued the city of Minneapolis for the right to host a block party on Hennepin Avenue. With the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (the forerunner to the ACLU of Minnesota), the group persuaded a federal judge inGay Pride v. The City of Minneapolisthat it was unconstitutional to allow other groups access to the avenue, but not the Pride Festival. In 1981, the Pride Committee was allowed to close off one block of Hennepin Avenue, for just one hour.
In 1990, Pride had grown so large that the Pride Committee had to request vendor applications and began to arrange booths around Loring Lake; by 1992, annual attendance was 50,000. The mid-90’s saw the introduction of multiple music stages, and in 1995 attendance had reached 100,000. By the late 90’s, the Pride Festival began to have corporate sponsors, and in 1998 annual attendance had doubled again, reaching 200,000.
This year, the Pride Committee expects over 450,000 guests. The celebration may look very different from that first picnic in 1972, but the message is still the same. Let us celebrate the victories—such as marriage equality in our great state—while recognizing how very far we still have left to go.
Many thanks to outhistory.org for their history of the Twin Cities Pride Festival. Visit http://outhistory.org/wiki/Twin_Cities_Pride_Festival to learn more.