Great Weather, Highest Attendance Yet Lead to 'Best' Ferndale Pride

BY KATE OPALEWSKI

Click here for a gallery of images from Ferndale Pride

Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter set the tone on June 3 as the city kicked off summer with its annual Pride festival.

"We're here to be supportive and say 'Welcome,' and by welcome I mean this - everyone is welcome in Ferndale - and I'm so proud that for seven years we've said to the LGBTQ community, which I am a member of, 'You are welcome here,' and this year, city council adopted an official welcoming ordinance that says to our immigrant friends and neighbors that you are also welcome here," said Coulter during the opening ceremony at Ferndale Pride. "We know that in Ferndale that our diversity isn't just something we celebrate, it's our strength. It's at the very core of our being. It's what makes us unique and we are going to be a beacon to the rest of the state and to the rest of the world that this is how you run a community where everyone is welcome, everyone is valued and everyone has input."

This kind of reputation is one of the reason's an estimated 20,000 people visited the city for Pride events throughout the weekend. That, and people are coming to know Ferndale Pride as the festival that truly offers something for everyone.

Festivities began following the early morning Rainbow Run, presented by the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce. Morgan Campagna, 18, of Sterling Heights and her girlfriend Katie Thomas, 16, of Warren started their day with the race before attending the festival.

"I love it. It's amazing to see the community coming together," said Thomas, who never had the opportunity to attend Ferndale Pride before this year. "You can feel all the love. I came out today to be a part of that."

Campagna said her mother, Melanie, brought her for the first time four years ago. She had no idea what this "day of fun" was all about before then and wanted to share it now with Thomas.

"It is the greatest thing I could find that was an accepting community," said Campagna.

Despite its reputation for being cursed by rain in years past, the weather was around 80 degrees and sunny.

On the MotorCity Casino Hotel main stage, organizers paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando.

"Today we have a lot to celebrate and we have a lot to remember," said Julia Music, event chair, before a special balloon launch that was dedicated to the 49 lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando just six days after last year's Pride. Detroit vocalist, producer and songwriter Sarah Hood performed an original song written for the victims.

Brian Kramer, his girlfriend Kara Nickell and Beth Hussey of the Kramer Restaurant group were there to help release the black balloons. Kramer is friends with Pulse owner Barbara Poma and was personally devastated by the tragedy.

Rainbow colored balloons were also released by new, young, LGBTQ people and allies in the community to honor those who died recently including Peter Cooper, a longtime activist in the local LGBTQ and Jewish communities.

"We want to remember them with a little bit of happiness because they brought so much happiness to so many people," said Music.

The streets of downtown Ferndale filled up for the 7th annual family-friendly street fair, which continues to grow each year. More than 115 inclusive vendors sold food, beverages and goods, and offered up resources and information for the LGBTQ community.

Making its debut at the festival this year was a sober space designed for those who like to celebrate Pride without alcohol. The space, according to Music, was busy all day and festival-goers "really liked having that area. It was a fantastic addition and we plan on keeping it."

The crowds at the main stage and dance stage areas grew larger throughout the day as festival-goers enjoyed a variety of metro Detroit musical acts and performers. Music said vendors stayed open later as the evening drew to a close.

Based on the amount of positive messages Music has received via email, text and in conversation, she said this was "the best Ferndale Pride by far. People are very happy."

Which means a lot considering the festival is not just a party. There is a lot of history rooted in the celebration, which many young people in attendance didn't seem to be aware of. Music, who started organizing LGBTQ events at the age of 16, hopes moving forward that more youth will get involved and get to know some of the leaders and activists in their communities. "Young people have all the power in the world to do things that need to be done," she said.

Jace Paupert and his fiance Emily Reger are young, but the Roseville couple has a good sense of why they attended Pride this year.

"We both enjoy the sense of comradare and acceptance that comes with being in the company of others in the LGBTQ community," said Paupert. "To me, Pride means to be proud of the relationship I've built with someone regardless of gender and to do so without reservation or fear of what others may think because at the end of the day the essence of love is the same when you strip away the physicality of those who share it."

The day after the festival, Music said, "I want to thank the community for supporting Ferndale Pride. We raised lots of money for charity in those buckets floating around during the event."

Proceeds from Ferndale Pride go to Affirmations, Ferndale Community Foundation, Gender Identity Network, Matrix Human Services MAC Health and Transgender Michigan.

In response to people who are already asking about next year's Pride, Music said the date is set for June 2, 2018. As always, volunteers are needed. Planning starts in November.

Stay connected to all things Ferndale Pride related online at http://www.ferndalepride.org.
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