Dodging some rain, Saturday’s festival on Calder Plaza boasted live music, drag displays and food, with an inspirational vibe for the LGBTQ community. Recap, photo gallery.
Saturday’s gloomy skies and on-and-off rain did little to dim spirits at Grand Rapids’ 31st annual Pride Festival held on Calder Plaza downtown.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Flaunting the theme, “Proud To Be,” attendees and performers truly embodied all that the LGBTQ community is proud to be.
“This is our time,” declared Tommy Allen, interim board president of the Grand Rapids Pride Center, who kicked things off with a speech on the main stage. He also made reference to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, spontaneous demonstrations by the gay community in New York City in response to police raids at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn in 1969.
“This is the power of Stonewall today,” Allen said to thunderous applause from the thousands gathered on the plaza.
The festival featured a new children/family area (sponsored by Meijer and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum) and more than 100 vendors, with Aerial 4 Me entertaining the packed Calder Plaza crowd with aerial silk demonstrations by Amelia Martin and others.
The “Proud to be Heard” local stage kept things rolling from noon onward with 19 local acts, including comedian Sydney Smith, hip-hop artist Dante Cope, and Grand Rapids music icon Lady Ace Boogie, who recited her spoken-word poetry.
NATIONAL HEADLINING STARS AND MORE
The main stage hosted three individual shows from three drag companies, featuring color-guard flags, untouchable dance moves, and performances to gay anthems both contemporary and classic.
For drag performer Tequila Sanchez with Beyond Beauty Drag, Pride Festival is all about “getting to meet so many people who I would have never met before, because of things like age restrictions in bars, even just children. My favorite part is literally just the children, seeing them here having a good time really shows that we’re moving up in the community.”
The organization Free Mom Hugs was also on hand, offering affirmation to LGBTQ people who might not have that support elsewhere in their lives.
“I just think equality is so important,” said Erin Goosen of Free Mom Hugs, “but also that every person deserves to feel loved and affirmed. And some people don’t have that from their parents, so I just want to step into that space.”
Opening musical act Sizzy Rocket was one of the festival’s highlights, kicking off her “GRRRL” tour with a knockout live performance for throngs of Grand Rapids fans. Even through rain and an abbreviated 30-minute set, she led the crowd through a parade of danceable hits, including “Girls To The Front” and a heavily censored rendition of fan-favorite “Bestie.”
Headlining Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress/philantropist Mya and iHeart 2019 Best New Pop Artist nominee MAX (best known for his hit, “Lights Down Low”) kept the party going until after sunset, with classics, covers of classics, and brand new hits capping off a successful day of celebration and love.
PHOTO GALLERY: Grand Rapids Pride Festival
Photos by Eric Stoike and Molly Long