The 28th Annual Pride Festival was celebrated next to the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids Saturday.
By a little after noon, the line to enter the festival had stretched around the corner, with attendees waiting 20 to 30 minutes in the nearly 90 degree heat. People were in enthusiastic moods and didn’t seem to mind the heightened level of security at the entrance to the festival. People entering were asked to show ID and let their bags be searched.
Amanda Hayes and Bob Stone of All Souls Community Church are part of a group that were countering several anti-gay protesters near the entrance to the festival. The group was singing and shouting “love is love” to counter the handful of protesters.
“To show our support for the movement, we are standing here to act as a wall of love to the hate-filled speech that we are hearing here today,” Stone said.
Hayes said they are activists for the side of love.
“It’s an important part of our faith to support folks anywhere along the spectrum,” Hayes said.
Standout, the student led LBGT+ organization at Grand Rapids Community College, had a table set up, run by club president Beau VanSolkema.
“We’re a support system for the community as a whole,” Vansolkema said. “Really it’s about support at the colleges. Getting people involved, helping them understand the LGBTQA-plus community.”
The festival had abundant food and drink offerings. Ranging from snow cones and veggie burgers, to beer and a non-alcoholic outdoor bar. Among the activities offered were henna art, adult novelties, several photo booths and acrobatic maneuvers were displayed.
Thomas Shaffer and Steve Neubauer were two of the festival goers.
“It means a chance of being yourself, and being authentic with what your life’s about,” Steve Neubauer said, explaining what Pride Fest means to him.
“And it’s nice to come here and meet people and see people even if you don’t know them,” Shaffer said. “It’s been fun and interesting.”