As with many things that evolve, however, the changes bring with them a fair amount of growing pains.
Preparations already are well underway for Cincinnati’s 2010 LGBT Pride Parade and Festival. After five years of dutiful service, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Cincinnati won’t be organizing the annual festival and is passing the torch to the Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce.
During the past few years, the event was held in June and centered around Clifton and Northside. The parade route began at Burnet Woods and ended at Hoffner Park, passing through the two neighborhoods’ business districts.
Last summer, the Gay Chamber organized the first-ever Equinox, a three-day festival held on the Fourth of July weekend and centered around Fountain Square. The inaugural event, which was designed to “help heal and improve Cincinnati’s national LGBT image,” was widely considered a success. In many ways, the new Pride Festival will emulate that model.
Chamber President Nigel Cotterill and Vice President George Crawford have taken over the reigns with the goal of making this year’s event the best Pride weekend yet.
Coterill owns Below Zero Lounge in Over-the-Rhine, and Crawford owns Metronation, a home furnishings store nearby in the Gateway Quarter.
Changes for Pride 2010 include not only moving festivities to the July 4th weekend but also a venue change that will shift the Parade and Festival into the heart of downtown Cincinnati.
The parade route will mimic the same one used for Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, culminating with the festival being held at Fountain Square, where all of the city’s other premier festivals are held.
“We’ve been working hard with City Hall and District One police to make this happen,” Crawford says. “And the Fourth of July weekend is the perfect weekend to have the festivities.”
From a tourism standpoint, moving the festival has its advantages. The chief one is having the main parade and festival downtown will not only make it more centrally located and accessible by public transportation but might also make the event more attractive to LGBT people from outside the area.
One of the Gay Chamber’s goals is to expand Cincinnati’s Pride events and make them comparable with those held in other large Midwest cities, like Columbus.
The changes, though, haven’t come without controversy.
Some gay business owners and residents in Northside have been grumbling privately because they say they’ve proudly sponsored the festival for years — and have their busiest weekend at neighborhood bars as a result — and that Gay Chamber representatives made the decision to move the festival without consulting with them.
Business owners contacted by CityBeat either couldn’t be reached or didn’t return telephone calls. Critics allege the move is being made only to benefit Cotterill’s and Crawford’s businesses. They also say the Pride parade will now compete with Northside’s eclectic July 4th Parade, a longstanding tradition.
While Northside is home to two gay bars — Club Bronz and the Serpent — downtown has several more establishments like Below Zero, On Broadway, Shooters, the Subway and Simon Says. Supporters point out that more businesses will be helped by the move.
Crawford says he understands the Northside business owners’ concerns but is also quick to respond that, “Pride belongs to the city, and no individuals own the event. It belongs to everyone.”
The Gay Chamber is hoping to stage events both downtown, in Northside and throughout the city during the Fourth of July weekend so no one feels excluded.
The concept currently being hammered together is to have the main parade, festival and the Equinox Ball downtown on Saturday, and open the weekend with other events and host smaller, satellite festivals and gatherings in various neighborhoods on Sunday.
Among the neighborhood events envisioned are pub crawls, special edition bingo, parties, dances and other entertainment in an effort to have Cincinnati’s diverse gay community celebrate Pride together.
Although planning for this year’s events is still in the early stage, the Gay Chamber is seeking feedback and volunteers to help firm up plans.
Anyone interested in volunteering for one of the planning committees and getting involved should e-mail Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.