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News from the Tulsa Pride Festival

Pride shown at festival

by: DAVID HARPER Tulsa World Staff Writer
Sunday, June 07, 2009
6/7/2009 4:17:35 AM

There was a carnival atmosphere Saturday in Tulsa as thousands of area residents poured into Centennial Park to ride a Ferris wheel, watch fireworks, enjoy snacks and generally relish being outside on a warm and windy weekend in June.

This Rockwellian scene, which was estimated to have attracted some 20,000 to the park at 1028 E. Sixth St., was all connected to the 2009 Tulsa Pride & Diversity Festival.

The daylong event attracted all sorts of people — some gay, some straight — and led up to a Pride Parade on Saturday night.

Pride Coordinator Kristi Freeman said that it’s “inspiring for the gay community to feel the acceptance” at the event, which as of late afternoon had reportedly attracted only one protester.

The festival dates back about 30 years. However, Freeman said that in the beginning it was really more of a “big picnic” at Mohawk Park typically attended by a few hundred people.

She said “it’s very awe- inspiring to me” to see how the event has grown.

The parade was a more recent development. While short marches were held in 1997 and 1998, the first full-fledged parade that involved street closings and police escorts occurred in 1999.

Toby Jenkins, president of Oklahomans for Equality, said Saturday that the size of this year’s festival crowd made him glad that almost 300 people had volunteered to help organizers.

Still, he said he needed even more “fresh bodies” to volunteer as the day progressed.

He said the festival has grown into one of the largest of its kind in this part of the country with parade entrants from neighboring states such as Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas (NetworQ!).

Jenkins said the city government was cooperative and professional to work with in the lead-up to this year’s event, even authorizing the flying of “rainbow flags” over the parade route.

He said that Tulsa — while located in one of the reddest of the so-called red states — is a tolerant and supportive city when it comes to gay and lesbian issues.

Still, Jenkins said, “there’s lots of opinions either way” on such matters and that everyone is certainly entitled to express their views, as long as it’s done in a nonviolent and hopefully polite fashion.

Jenkins said June is traditionally the month many gay pride celebrations are held because of the connection to the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent conflicts between gay people and New York City police officers that began during a June 28, 1969, police raid on a Greenwich Village bar and lasted several days.

David Harper 581-8359

Associate Images:


Drag queen Lady Tamia St. James performs during Tulsa’s Pride & Diversity Festival at Centennial Park on Saturday. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World photo


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