by Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKC Pride 2016, themed “Free to Love,” will host activities throughout the week of June 20-26. Festivities will include a Block Party and Concert, the two day Pride Festival and the ever popular OKC Pride Parade.
First held in 1988, OKC Pride is a celebration of diversity, individuality and freedom. Last year’s events drew an estimated 75,000 people.
“As a special entertainment treat for our community, we host an evening Block Party on the Friday night of our annual Pride Week,” said Michael Clark, OKC Pride President.
“The block party takes place on ‘The Strip’ and includes top-notch entertainment, delicious food trucks, a variety of vendors, expanded family-friendly activities and a good time for all.”
Starting at 8 p.m., this year’s concert will feature the “First Ladies of Disco” Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King (“Shame”), Anita Ward (“Ring My Bell”) and Martha Wash (“It’s Raining Men”). They will début their 11-piece band disco extravaganza in Oklahoma City that evening.
The free, outdoor concert has previously featured headliners such as the Pointer Sisters, En Vogue and Taylor Dayne.
The 2016 Pride Festival will be held on Saturday, June 25, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., along with the Family Festival at Expressions Community Center, 2245 NW 39th Street. The Main Stage will feature all-day entertainment.
There will be booths from a variety of organizations, including local and regional artists, campaigns, churches, charities and businesses.
In addition, on Saturday at 6 p.m., OKC Pride will host the 4th annual Love is Love marriage ceremony. Couples are invited to join in a special wedding ceremony held on the Main Stage.
Couples can legalize their union or renew their vows of recommitment. Pastor Neil Spurgin Coffman of Expressions Community Church will officiate.
OKC Pride works year-round on outreach to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community and education of the community at-large.
“The OKC Pride festival is a great opportunity to make our voice heard, but this year we also hosted the first annual Transgender Valentine Banquet, the third-annual Second-Chance Prom, the LGBTQ Youth Prom and third-annual Halloween Block Party on 39th Street, “ added Clark.
“Each of these events allows OKC Pride to reach out to more members of our community to let them know they are not alone and put them in touch with necessary resources.
“They also show all of Oklahoma City that its LGBTQ members are living and working beside them every day,” Clark added. “We believe this education and outreach is vital to our continued growth.”
The ever-popular Pride Parade will step off at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 26 featuring approximately one hundred entries representing the community’s diversity.
This year’s Grand Marshall will be Lee Burris, owner of Ingrid’s Kitchen. Burris was selected because of his numerous contributions to the LGBTQ community. He played a major role in establishing ‘The Strip’ through his 12 year management of The Copa, Finishline, Gushers Restaurant and Jungle Red gift shop, located inside the Habana Inn.
Recent honorees include Mary Arbuckle, owner of Other Options Food Pantry; Oklahoma marriage equality lawsuit plaintiffs, Sharon and Mary Bishop-Baldwin; and equal rights activist Bob Lemon.
The parade route runs from NW 39th Street between Classen and Youngs Boulevards, passing the Grandstand at 39th and Barnes Avenue. http://okcpride.org/events/pride-parade/
Entry lineup begins at 4 p.m. on Classen between NW 34th and 38th Streets.
The “Free to Love” theme will be considered in the selection of winners for best parade float entry.
“We are so proud of the community that our parade represents, and we are excited to keep on bringing this top-notch event to the city,” Clark stated.
“Please get involved, volunteer, donate, register for the festival, enter the parade or just plan to join us for a great time,” Clark said.
Partnering again with OKC Pride, the fourth annual Freedom Oklahoma Equality Run 5K/10K/1-Mile will be held at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, June 26, at Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W. Reno, in downtown Oklahoma City. To register, visit equalityrunokc.org.
For more information on additional events, or to enter a float, vehicle, band or walking group in the Pride Parade, visit the OKC Pride Facebook page or www.OKCPride.org.
UPDATE: FROM OKC PRIDE
ATTENTION: 2016 OKC Pride Security Changes
Due to recent events and our continued concern for the safety and security of our attendees, OKC Pride, in conjunction with Oklahoma City Police, Oklahoma County Sheriff, local FBI and our private security, will institute the following changes at OKC Pride 2016:
• Entry to the festival area will be available only through designated gates (see map below)
• No vehicles will be allowed into the festival area except during designated loading times
• None of the following will be allowed into the festival:
o No Firearms or Weapons of any kind
o No Coolers
o No Backpacks or Duffle Bags
o No outside food or beverages
o No illegal substances
• Personal handbags or purses will be admitted but are subject to inspection by security
• Anyone wishing to purchase alcoholic beverages must obtain a wristband by showing valid ID
• Handicapped parking will be available off NW 40th behind Expressions Community Center
We apologize for any inconvenience these additional security procedures may cause. OKC Pride is committed to ensure that each of our guests has a safe and secure environment where they can freely celebrate their individuality and the diversity of our community. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. We wish everyone a safe and happy 29th annual OKC Pride!