West Michigan Pride bigger than ever

Annual celebration attracts more than 7,000 to Riverside Park

By Jim Sullivan

GRAND RAPIDS- With a new location, the 23rd annual West Michigan Pride festival attracted more attendees and vendors than ever before.

Last year roughly 6,000 attended, said organizer Linda Stuba. But this year, a preliminary estimate showed about 7,200 guests - and that's not even the official count. The number of vendors increased from 76 to 105. "It's quite a jump," Stuba said.

Last year's pride went well, but it was in a ballpark and "in the sun, with all that dust, it wasn't the best place," Stuba said. The June 18 festival took place this year at shady Riverside Park.

The only downside of the increase in attendance? People had a hard time finding parking, Stuba said.

Despite that one minor issue, the day focused on a sense of community that goes beyond just LGBTs.

"This is the one day a year we get to see each other again. It's like homecoming," said Rob Wiersum, owner of Diversions and Pub 43.

Bank of America, Herman Miller, and Celebration Cinema were just a few of the well-known companies from West Michigan whose participation reiterated that the celebration involves the whole community.

Members of the year-old Michigan Gay Officers Action League, based in Lansing, had a booth at the event to inform festivalgoers about their mission.

"We want to be a resource between law enforcement and the LGBT community to foster acceptance in our fields, and reach out to the broader LGBT community to build trust and communication," Michigan Department of Corrections officer James Sims said. " Historically, that has not happened."

For the full story, go to http://www.kentcountystar.com.
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