Springfield launches its first-ever Pride parade
As Springfield's first Pride parade winded down and spectators gathered at city hall to dance and eat and shop with local vendors, organizer Taurean Bethea marveled at the turnout.
"This is amazing. I have no words, this is beautiful," said Bethea, who has spent the past two years planning the event.
Springfield residents Rafael Rodriguez and Eric Caldera walked around Court Square enjoying the beautiful weather and the festivities.
"I'm surprised that there's a bunch of people because I didn't think there would be that much today, since it's the first," Rodriguez said.
He said it's encouraging to see the city's support.
"I'm glad that the mayor of the city decided to support this, I'm glad that this happened," he said.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno marched in the parade and spoke from the steps of city hall welcoming people from many surrounding communities to Springfield's first Pride parade. Northampton and Boston cancelled their parades this year.
"I think this is fantastic and I'm fully supportive of it," he said.
Sarno said the event not only supports the LGBTQ+ community, but also supports economic development downtown.
"People coming downtown means they are patronizing our establishments, they're going to spend money and feel good about coming to the city of Springfield," he said.
The events lasted until about 5 p.m. Other events in the city will be held throughout the month of June including Family Pride Day at the Springfield Museums next Saturday, June 11.
“We will celebrate the beauty and potential of each and every child and emphasize that difference is a plus," said Clarissa Leverich, family engagement coordinator for the museums, which also closed off the parade as the last marching contingent Saturday. "Celebrating diversity helps us all see with an openness and empathy that leads to discovery, innovation, and positive change.”
Follow along here as NEPM covers the festivities. On Twitter, you can follow NEPM's Nirvani Williams @nirv4ani, and on Instagram, NEPM's Elizabeth Román is offering occasional live video.
The event kicked off at Springfield Technical Community College. Marchers in the parade then made their way downtown, along State Street to Main Street and then to Court Square under a clear, bright blue sky.
The parade came to an end at Springfield City Hall. Nearby, tents were set up at Court Square in preparation for festivities throughout the afternoon.
Toby Davis and Aubri Drake were there, beaming after the parade's conclusion.
"Pride always feels the most meaningful seeing all the kids and young adults," Drake said.
Bethea said there was a lot of planning involved including a delay due to COVID-19.
"Planning this historic event has not been an easy task at all. I've learned a lot and I had a strong support system," he said
Sarno said this week that when Bethea approached him about hosting a Pride parade, he was excited to do it.
"We are the City of Firsts, and this was a no-brainer," Sarno said.
And in a written statement he added, "I am proud to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ community to remind all that each of us deserves the same level of equality and respect."
Nirvani Williams and Heather Brandon contributed to this post.