Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Motor City Pride, Now and Then

I feel like there are going to be a series of "update" posts as I get going with this. Here's one.

Back when I was still doing this somewhat regularly, Motor City Pride moved from Ferndale to Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. It was somewhat controversial, as Ferndale has been a hub of gay community in Metro Detroit for a long time. There was resentment. There was discord. There was a hissy-fit.

I spearheaded an initiative among the small businesses of the greater downtown area to show that Detroit was a welcoming community. Honestly, I did it because someone shared with me that the businesses in Ferndale - the ones that had Pride at their doors because it was a street fair - didn't donate to Pride, and I figured Detroit small businesses could at least throw down the welcome mat. We raised like seven grand. Pride that year was the best gay Detroit thing ever.

It was a little rough going at first. I joked that the parade was the Saddest Gay Pride in America, with like fifteen groups marching and four spectators along the way. Don't get me wrong, it was fun. I like it when it is janky - I am a real Detroit 1.0 gal at heart.

In 2013 (year three) there were so few spectators
they were power washing the sidewalks during the parade.
But we made it work anyway.
(Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Cindy Elmwood.)

Fast forward six years. Detroit is now the hottest thing going. I don't know if it's the fact that we have a white mayor or the fact that Shinola has legitimized the city to the Somerset shopper, but the suburbs suddenly cannot get enough Detroit. If you have a problem with that statement all I can say is I talk to suburbanites who haven't come to the city since they finished grad school at Wayne State all week long at work, and I'm just paraphrasing everything they say to me. Whatever it is, the change in the last five years is kind of astounding.

So now the parade is jam-packed full of participants, Griswold Street lined with folks watching the parade. Corporate sponsors up the wazoo (although not a lot of participation from the handful of gay bars remaining in SE MI. Chipotle is in though).

Pre-parade prep. The excitement is palpable. 
Lines to get into Pride at Hart Plaza are long on both Saturday and Sunday. It's kind of amazing, the growth.

I have no snark to add, actually. It's great that finally the whole Pride in Hart Plaza thing has hit its stride.

Every year since year one I have marched with the Robert M. Nelson Presents group, and every year it's one of the highlights of summer. Some people ask, "Who is Robert M. Nelson?" and I feel bad for them. Not everything is instantly discoverable with the Internet. But the people who know, know. (I'll explain some other time).

He's only a Craigslist "Missed Connection" away!
See?
My partner and I have been throwing a gay pride Saturday party since the second year, caftans optional. Sunday we march in the parade. In the beginning we did if for our own entertainment, and today, entertaining thousands, it's no less fun. It's kind of crazy that we can still have a spot in the parade just for the sake of having a spot in the parade. And when it's all over we go into Pride and check it all out. (And the last few years, wind down watching the Tony Awards).

Against all odds, Pride weekend has become the best weekend of the summer. Kudos for that, Motor City Pride. And more importantly, kudos queers of Detroit.

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