Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Pride Their Pride Is Growing from Small Beginning, Lgbt Festival Now Draws Thousands

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Pride Their Pride Is Growing from Small Beginning, Lgbt Festival Now Draws Thousands

Article excerpt

It was 1996, and Gary A. Van Horn was a nervous teenager of about 17 years old when he attended his first gay pride event in Mellon Park in Shadyside.

It was a time when many people were still living in the closet, experiencing discrimination and afraid to be seen in public advocating for gay rights, he said, and the event was sparsely attended.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years, through the television show "Will & Grace," past the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, through to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 12 states plus Washington, D.C., after the endorsement of gay marriage by President Barack Obama to now, where the country awaits two imminent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that could further alter the landscape for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Here is where Mr. Van Horn, no longer that nervous teenager but now president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh and an entrepreneur who owns nightclubs and restaurants here, sits.

Specifically, he is sitting in Cruze Bar in the Strip District, which he owns, to talk about Pittsburgh Pride, a celebration of gay pride in Pittsburgh that will culminate with a pub crawl June 14, an Adam Lambert concert June 15 and a march through Downtown June 16.

In 2007, the year the Delta Foundation began organizing Pittsburgh Pride, about 3,000 people turned out, Mr. Van Horn said. Last year, turnout for the final two days of Pride events was about 86,000. This year, the Delta Foundation expects to break 100,000.

"It has grown very, very quickly," Mr. Van Horn said.

Pittsburgh Pride, and the gay rights movement in general, have reached a level that Mr. Van Horn and others who have said they could never have fathomed.

The first Pride event in Pittsburgh, according to a history written by Christine Bryan, the Delta Foundation's director of marketing and development, took place 40 years ago. On June 17, 1973, about 150 marchers walked from Market Square, Downtown, to Flagstaff Hill in Oakland.

The marches continued in various locations over the years, though not every year. Jeff Freedman of the South Side participated in his first Pride event in the late 1970s, recalling that "it consisted of me, another teenager and probably a dozen and a half lesbians."

For a few years in the 1990s, the events confined themselves to Mellon Park, where Mr. Freedman said people felt safe. Some people still felt uncomfortable being out on the streets, but in the early 2000s, the Pride event was moved to Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside for a parade and a street festival.

"It was a huge step," said Richard Parsakian of Shadyside. "You're in the middle of a business district as opposed to a garden, where you can almost hide."

By 2004, Pittsburgh Pride moved to the North Shore and eventually to Downtown, where it remains. …

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