PITTSBURGH PRIDE HISTORY
Since 1973, the humid dog days of Pittsburgh summers have harbingered an annual Pride Parade. While many may think that Pittsburgh Pride is a recent star in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ constellation, our pride parades actually have a venerable, albeit somewhat checkered history, varying in attendance but touching many East End neighborhoods, from Downtown to Shadyside.
PITTSBURGH PRIDE TIMELINE
2019: We Are One
“We Are One,” was the theme for Pittsburgh Pride 2019 which moved from Liberty Avenue to Ft. Duquesne Blvd. and the Andy Warhol Bridge. Thanks to the Port Authority, the Pittsburgh Pride bus made its official, colorful debut and was seen all around Pittsburgh sparking lots of conversation about the LGBTQ community. Pride Rocks PGH garnered national attention once again with its entertainment line-up which included Walk the Moon on Friday night and R&B Diva Toni Braxton on Saturday night. Local DJ H made sure we danced all night long. PrideFest entertainment was diverse as ever and included Princex, Billy Winn, Young Foolie, the Lemington Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh, Namoli Brennet, and Lena Jackson..just to name a few. The Equality March featured a bevy of corporate members including David Burritt, President & CEO of United States Steel Corporation; Cindy Hundorfean, President & CEO of Allegheny Health Network; Katharine Kelleman, CEO…
2018: This is Me
Under the theme “This is Me,” Pittsburgh Pride saw the launch of a new two-night concert series called Pride Rocks PGH. Friday night was headlined by Troye Sivan, Leland, and trans pop singer Kim Petras. The ABBA Tribute Band brought all the “dancing queens” downtown for a huge, free dance party in the street. PrideFest had a diverse array of entertainers including Shemuwel, JLINE, and RV Mendoza. DJ Barry Harris led the Pride Radio Dance Party up until the rainstorm which came near the end of the day.
2017: Rise Up
“America’s Got Talent” Singer Brian Justin Crum lit up Ellsworth Avenue at the Ready. Set. Pride! event in Shadyside which kicked off Pittsburgh Pride 2017. This year saw an expanded Pride to a full weekend of events including MJ Live, a Michael Jackson tribute concert from Las Vegas, American Idol Jennifer Hudson in her first ever Pittsburgh appearance, as well as an expanded two-day PrideFest which included a 300-ft. zip line on Liberty Avenue. PrideFest entertainment included Brand Parson who penned the “Forty-Nine Times” anthem about Pulse Nightclub and trans female pop group Secret Girls led by Nikki Exotica. The Equality March got its first title sponsor with EQT as the conversation about corporate involvement in the Pride movement continued.
2016: Together We Are Stronger
In 2016, Pittsburgh Pride came back stronger than ever with the announcement that Kesha would be headlining Pride in the Street, in what would be our first sell-out. Opening for Kesha was Mahogany La Piranha and Angel Haze. A new pool party was held at Skybar on the South Side, it was the final year for the Pub Crawl, and the R-52s performance at Ready. Set. Pride! Early Sunday morning, the world woke with the news of the Pulse Nightclub shooting which led to 49 seconds of silence during the Equality March. Mylan CEO Heather Bresch was our first CEO to participate in the March and all PrideFest attendees were able to get a free STI and STI test at the Mylan Wellness Village. Performers at PrideFest included Jaila Simms, who made history as the first trans person to win a reality show. The weekend after Pride, the Delta Foundation…
2015: All You Need is Love
In 2015, Pittsburgh Pride garnered national and international media attention when some members of the community were unhappy with the choice of rapper Iggy Azalea to headline Pride in the Street, which eventually led to the decision for her to withdraw from the event. Nick Jonas saw the media coverage and offered to perform following his earlier performance that same night in New York. Thanks to the generosity of a sponsor, we were able to get Nick and his team to Pittsburgh via private plane. Opening for Nick was local fav Mish, Aaron Pfeiffer, and drag by Thea Trix. Ready. Set. Pride!, held the prior weekend in Shadyside, got everyone pumped with an electrifying performance by Shadina Bettis and a host of drag performances.
2014: Be Brave
In 2014, the theme for Pittsburgh Pride was “Be Brave” which tied in perfectly as we anxiously awaited word from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that marriage equality would finally be legal in Pennsylvania. On May 20, that dream came true and the community celebrated with a Marriage Equality Celebration on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside complete with a surprise wedding proposal on stage. Several new events were added to the Pride line-up that year included a 5K Stride for Pride, the Race to Equality stationary cycle event, Equality on Ellsworth, which featured Charice who Oprah Winfrey called “the most talented girl in the world,” and two Fabulous Gay Friday events in Market Square designed to promote Pride to the corporate community Pride in the Street was a huge celebration with disco diva Chaka Khan and MAGIC! performing. Opening acts included Ayah Marar, Via Chambers, and Lazaro Arbos. Local DJ Strobe kept…
Pride 2013: I Wanna Marry You
In 2013, “I Wanna Marry You” was the theme as marriage equality became legal in many states in the U.S. For Pride in the Street, American Idol runner–up Adam Lambert and his “Glambert” fans made their way to Pittsburgh from 22 states and 7 countries. This was Adam’s only second gay pride appearance ever and his amazing voice could be heard up and down Liberty Avenue. Opening for Adam was Pittsburgh’s own Sharon Needles, David and Devine, and Ryan Amador and Jo Lampert. DJ Digital Dave kept the crowd dancing all night. Acting Police Chief Regina McDonald led the Pride March down Fifth Avenue and the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, a 178-piece World Class competitive junior drum and bugle corps based in Allentown, wowed the crowd. PrideFest was packed with thousands enjoying such diverse entertainment as Matt Otis, Ryan Amadore, and Lady Boi. Closing the festival was the U.K’s…
2012: Pride in the Name of Love
The legendary Melissa Etheridge headlined 2012’s Pride in the Street with a theme of “Pride in the Name of Love” and thousands of Pittsburghers both straight and gay descended on Liberty Avenue. Surprisingly this was Melissa’s first gay pride event and she showed up loud, proud and ready to rock ‘n roll for an unbelievable 2 1/2 hours of music. Opening the night was local DJ 7UP and Reina. Following the concert, legendary DJ Tracy Young kept the crowd dancing into the wee hours. The Capital Pride Bank made its debut at the Pride March, followed by a slew of entertainment at PrideFest including Cazwell and American Idol performer Melissa Doolittle.
2011: Don’t Stop Believing
In 2011, the theme for Pittsburgh Pride was “Don’t Stop Believing” and Pride kicked-off with an Advocacy Rally on the steps of the City-County Building featuring Zach Wahls, Stuart Milk (Harvey Milk’s nephew) and Mary Key Totty. The headliner at Pride in the Street was the one and only Patti LaBelle and many in the African American community were introduced to what may have been their first gay pride. Miss Patti wowed the crowd with her legendary rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and yes, her shoes came off! DJ Eddie Elias kept the crowd on their feet dancing until the end of the night. Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force Executive Director Kathi Boyle was our grand marshal for the Pride March which once again had record participants. PrideFest entertainment included fast talker George Watsky, Stacy Lane Matthews, Kellie Maize with a huge sing-a-long closing performance by Journey cover band Frontiers.
2010: We Belong
In 2010, the theme was “We Belong” and Pride in the Street featured Canada’s own Deborah Cox. PrideFest was filled with local dance troupes, drag queens and kings, and local and regional performing acts including Official Hank, Pandora Scooter and Aaron & Sonji. The event closed with favorite dance pop artist Amber.
2009: Your Rights, Our Rights, Human Rights
Pride Week 2009 was held June 8-14 with the theme “Your Rights, Our Rights, Human Rights.” Throughout the week were numerous events including “GLBTQ Civil Rights: How you can change government for your rights,” “Your Rights, Our Rights, Human Rights: An ACLU Forum Issues and Answers on Law, Marriage, Money and Family Matters.” Opening at Pride in the Street were hip-hop honey’s God-des and She who ably set the stage for Grammy and Tony Award winner Jennifer Holiday, who treated the crowd with her belt-out ballads and sky-high serenades. San Francisco’s international reknowned DJ Phil B spun the tunes late into the night. The annual Pride Awareness Walk wound its way through the Blvd. of the Allies to Liberty Avenue, and featured Grand Marshals State Rep. Dan Frankel, advocate Wendi Miller, and musician Thea Austin. Organizers said this year’s parade was the largest ever with 25 floats and 50 groups…
2008: Live Love Liberty!
Pride Week was held June 16-22, 2008 with the theme “Live, Love, Liberty.” The week kicked off with a Bowling Extravaganza at Forward Lanes in Squirrel Hill and included workshops and lectures throughout the week on topics such as LGBT Foster Care & Adoption and performances of “Take Me Out,” a play set in the locker room of a professional baseball team, which explored themes of homophobia, racism, class, and masculinity in sport. Thursday night included SPLASH!, a pool party at the home of Steve Herforth and Peter Karlovich on Mt. Washington Hundreds participated in Friday night’s Pub Crawl Pride in the Street on Saturday was hosted by Frank DeCaro and featured American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, Frederick Ford, Global Groove Tour, and DJ Escape. Sunday’s Pride March and Pride Fest featured Fran DeCaro, Reina, the Cliks, comedian Eddie Sarfaty, Jacob Retain, and Mar Lou Wallner. The Beer Garden made…
2007: United for Equality
The international theme “United for Equality” was chosen as the theme for the 2007 Pride Celebration. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was the first Pittsburgh Mayor to ever grace our stage, and Governor Ed Rendell was on hand for the second year to kick off the Pride Awareness March, led by grand marshal and local businessman Herb Beatty. The Shepherd Wellness Center carried the Rainbow Flag in the march which started downtown and ended in Riverfront Park, where 65 vendors welcomed the crowd. Headlining the entertainment was Poppy Champlin, an LA-based comedian. Other acts included Eric Himan, Cindy Shaffer, Sasha, Jezebel, The Renaissance City Choirs, Sarah Claire Morton, Tracy Drach, and Dreams of Hope. Community pre-events included Kick-Start your Pride-Women’s Dance and the first ever Pride in the Street with Emmy award winner Bruce Vilanch, singing sensation Tiffany, DJ Juklian Marsh, and DJ DeMarko.
2006: Pride Not Prejudice
The Pride Awareness March kicked off downtown and included PA Governor Ed Rendell. Led by the Dykes on Bikes contingent and grand marshal Susan Hough, the parade started downtown and finished at Riverfront Park on the North Shore. The Steel City Softball League held the honor of carrying the Rainbow Flag in recognition of their 25th anniversary. Performances included Lenora Nemitz, Renaissance City Choirs, Cindy Shaffer, Kierra Darshell, Lisa Ferraro, Diamond, Jonathan, and Brad Yoder. New this year was the addition of 2nd stage, which was a Dance Stage. Capping the days’ festivities was Pride night at PNC Park, with a portion of ticket sales benefitting the GLCC. There was a pre-game Pride Picnic before the group saw the Pirates play the Minnesota Twins. New the year was the Friends of Pride campaign, which gave individuals the ability to be a sponsor.
2005: Equal Rights. No More. No Less.
The Pride Committee reached out to LGBT organizations in Erie, Butler, Wheeling, Johnstown, Altoona, and Morgantown among others, and invited them to join the festivities. The parade, with Grand Marshals Jim Huggins and Randy Forrester at the helm, snaked through downtown, across the Allegheny River to Riverfront Park on the North Shore. PFLAG Pittsburgh carried the 100-foot Rainbow Flag and new to the parade was the Doggie Drag Creative Costume Contest, which benefitted the Western PA Humane Society. Entertainment included the Renaissance City Choirs, Dreams of Hope, Patrick Arena, Proudly Presents Productions, Stacy lee Lucas, numerous drag kings and queens, and the high-energy band Bootlickers. A children’s activity area was added for the first time and Pride Night at PNC Park was held the prior week.
2004: Stand Up! Stand Proud! Stand Together!
More than 2,100 people and 50 vendors attended the festival on the North Shore’s Great Lawn, and 600 people and 43 units participated in the parade. Responding to requests to move the event to a more visible location, the Pride Parade started downtown and wound around through the Three Rivers Arts Festival, ending on the North Shore. There was a wide range of activities throughout the month including Stand Up and Yell! Bingo, held in the parking lot off Ellsworth Avenue, a special performance of Varla Jean Merman, under a Big Top at the City Theatre; Standing Together with Pride, a pageant of diversity benefiting The Seven Project, a parade and festival, as well as Pride Day at PNC Park, as the Pirates played the Seattle Mariners.
2003: Peace Through Pride
Pittsburgh marked 30 years of celebrating Pride with a parade and street festival in Shadyside. Marchers followed a route through Shadyside which ended at the 5800 block of Ellsworth Avenue. Leading up to PrideFest were a series of activities including the Unity Ball, an all-ages sweetheart dance on the Gateway Clipper, the 2nd annual Mr. Pittsburgh Drag King Pageant, a Pride Run/Walk, and a performance by the gay/lesbian sketch comedy/cabaret trio Unitard.
2002: We are your Neighbors
Undeterred by the misfortunes of 2001, the GLCC Pride committee returned the parade to Shadyside, but chose Ellsworth Avenue over Mellon Park as the site for the festival. Ample participation in the parade pushed the crowd size to an estimated 10,000 people before–once again–a drenching rain soaked the festival.
2001: Embrace Diversity
In 2001, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) took over Pride, organizing and moving the event away from Mellon Park. The new Pride Committee’s choice of Flagstaff Hill did not materialize, and it settled for Schenley Meadow. But, it wasn’t the permit snafu that caused a dampening effect. Heavy rains soaked the city for much of the morning and only stopped when the Squirrel Hill parade arrived. The stage line-up of singers, poets, and speakers was once of the best ever.
2000: Take Pride. Take Joy. Take Action.
The June 17, 2000 Pride Parade and festival continued the tradition of a Shadyside march and Mellon Park festival and was the final Pride event organized by the Three Rivers Pride Committee, which formed to produce the 1994 events.
1999: Prideful Past, Powerful Future
Pride festival stage producer Ted Hoover said following about the 1999 event: “Whatever else I’ll remember from Pride Fest ’99, the top of the list would be the little corner of Mellon Park that the Asian & Friends people made their own. It was five or six pagoda roofs, one suspended from the next, each covered with a glittering color of the rainbow. It was truly stunning, and I loved the way it combined groovy symbols of both queer and Pacific Rim culture. And with a strap here and some velcro there, it would make a dress the likes of which Patti O’Fernicher can only dream about.”
1998: Unity Through Diversity
1997: Equality Through Visibility
1996: Pride Without Borders
1995: Pride – From Silence to Celebration
1994: Stonewall 25—A Global Celebration of Lesbian & Gay Pride & Protest
In 1994, attendance fell further when the Pride committee was stymied by the City’s insistence that the march proceed along the mythical “construction” occurring on Fifth Avenue. Determined marchers followed the route to Market Square, which crossed over a deserted and unobstructed Fifth Avenue.
1993: A Family of Pride
1992: Pride = Power
The parades returned in 1991 when almost 500 queers and friends traveled to the Point from the Civic Arena. The next year marked a parade apex: nearly 1,000 marchers regained the Civic Arena-Point trail! Unfortunately, rain dampened the success of the 1993 Civic Arena/Point march, and attendance fell to 400.
1991: Together in Pride
1990: Look to the Future
1989: Stonewall 20 – A Generation of Pride
1988: Rightfully Proud
1987: Proud, Strong, United
1986: Forward Together
1985: Alive with Pride in ‘85
1984: Unity & More in ‘84
Pride marches plunged into a Dark Ages in the 1980s, and no parades occurred until a renaissance trek in May, 1991.
On June 22, marchers trooped across Shadyside, this time from Morewood and Fifth to Mellon Park on the Point Breeze border.
In 1979, queers hit the asphalt in more residential settings. On June 24, 120 participants marched through Shadyside and Bellefield, from Ellsworth Avenue to Flagstaff Hill.
In 1976, a militant troupe wended a serpentine way from the Civic Arena to the Federal Building, where they made demands of the federal government. The group continued to crosscross the Golden Triangle, issuing rights demands at the City-County Building, the Catholic Diocese Building and Point State Park.
Organizers truncated the route in 1975. That year, on June 22, an undetermined number of community members and supporters jaunted downhill from the Civic Arena to Point State Park.
In 1974, the second lesbian and gay pride parade was held on June 23, followed by a picnic in South Park.
Pittsburgh’s first Pride Parade occurred on June 17, only four years after the Stonewall riots in New York City. About 150 hardy marchers trekked uphill from Market Square to Flagstaff Hill in Oakland. The day before, Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh (GAP) chartered a “mod painted” streetcar as part of “Gay Trolley Day.” The queer streetcar traveled from Market Square, through Castle Shannon, Dormont, Beechview and back to downtown. That evening a dance was held at the Unitarian Church.