Sasha Harper, Staff Writer
Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way” filled the air in Forsyth Park this past Saturday at the 2016 Savannah Pride Fest. The diversity of people in line to buy entrance tickets provided only a taste of what was waiting beyond the orange fence that encircled the grounds.
The park was filled with a variety of people, unlike any other festival. From senior citizens, teens wearing rainbow wigs, families pushing baby strollers, people sparkling with glitter, and children with their face painted, this festival embodied the acceptance and love that our beautiful city has to share.
Mark Hill, a local LGBTQ activist and advocate, said, “We’re different from a lot of otherPrides because we’re family-oriented.”
He assured that all the events were G-rated.
Some of the scheduled events included Miss Savannah Pride and Miss South CarolinaPride, Pulse nightclub DJ Scott Robert’s Dance Party, Bay Street Theatre Rocky Horror Live Preview, puppet shows, Skylite Jazz Band from Savannah Arts, Club One Cabaret, and more.
Despite a fallen oak tree along the border of the festival, there was no sign of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction. Volunteers said the city was quick to clean up the park, making the event’s 8am-11am set-up much easier. Volunteers arranged the booths, tables and chairs for vendors and guests and they provided assistance in the ticket booth.
“The people have been so nice and everybody is so happy!” said Armstrong student and Pride Fest volunteer Sachika Chattam.
The vendors were as varied as the participants. From artists selling paintings and jewelry, to Coldwell Banker, Bruster’s Ice Cream, to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton political booths with their supporters wearing “Gays for Trump” or “LGBT for Hillary” tshirts, every interest had a spot in Forsyth Park.
This year marked 17 years of Savannah Pride, starting from a one-day gathering in 1999 at Johnson Square, to what is now a weeklong event of celebration. More than 6,000 people attended Savannah Pride in Forsyth Park last year.
“Visit Savannah has really stepped up, helping us market to folks in Charleston, Orlando, Atlanta, Jacksonville and beyond,” says festival director, Regan Drake.
“We want to become a destination Pride. We’re really looking at building this festival for LGBT folks from across the country.”
Although Savannah has a growing reputation as a gay-friendly vacation spot and is partnering for the first time with the city’s tourism networks, there still isn’t a dedicated safe meeting space for the local LGBT community and their organizations.
The week of Savannah Pride Fest isn’t just a party, it’s a party with a purpose. It provided events where funds were raised for the future Savannah LGBT Center so local LGBT supporters will be able to meet and grow their causes and establishments.