Deering Oaks was a sea of rainbow flags, music and laughter as Portland celebrated its annual pride festival and parade on Saturday afternoon.
Thousands of families, couples and corporate groups marched through downtown Portland and gathered in the park to buy food trucks, music, vendors and a beer tent. Portland pride! The organizers said that nearly 14,000 people were expected, which represents a record of participation in the event.
"I have never seen so many happy and smiling people," said 56-year-old Martha Warren of Scarborough, who came to the festival with her 19-year-old niece, Emerson Warren.
It was Warren's first pride in Portland! but she went to a pride event in Boston last week and had such a good time that she also wanted to attend the Portland event.
"It was so, so cool," she said. "There was no frown to see."
The weather probably made people party and raise their spirits. Bright sunshine, summits in the mid 70's and a refreshing breeze provided ideal conditions for an outdoor festival.
Besides the beautiful weather, the theme of the festival this year drew the crowds: "Resist. Remember. Rejoice. – In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of clashes between the LGBTQ + community and the New York City police was seen as a major catalyst for the modern rights movement homosexuals in the United States.
"It's a very big year for us," said Rebecca Tanous, festival president. Pride demonstrations across the country celebrated Stonewall's birthday and he has probably brought in people who would otherwise have been able to stay at home, Tanous said.
The current policy and threats against LGBTQ + rights have attracted more activism within the community and support from outsiders, Tanous added.
"With all that is crazy in government, I think people are realizing that they have to be allies now," she said.
The 10-day festival ends Sunday with a tea dance party on Peaks Island.
Saturday's crowd has invaded much of the southern boundary of Deering Oaks. Hungry festival-goers have long been waiting for food trucks and have packed the outdoor cafe of Shipyard Brewing Co .. Families and couples are lying on covers to watch the artists on the main stage or relax at the edge of Deering Oaks Pond.
Saco's Jake Voishnis said it was the second time he had been to Portland Pride and this time it was significantly bigger, stronger and more crowded. He agreed that the change in attitude towards LGBTQ + rights had stimulated participation.
"I think a lot more people are more open to support," said Voishnis.
"Being gay is no longer a problem and people want to celebrate it."
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