?Buffalo celebrated its 21st Annual Pride Festival in early June, attracting thousands of people to the historic Erie Canal Harbor to partake in the fun.
According to Justin Azzarella, 34, who spearheaded the planning and organizing for the festival, the weekend?s turnout was "exceptional."
"We?ve been getting the word out more," said Azzarella, who also serves as the Associate Vice President for the Evergreen Association of Western New York. "I?ve talked to people [today] from Toronto and Rochester and Cleveland."
Azzarella also chalked up this year?s success to the inclusion of new activities such as a Kids? Zone and a "teen tent" ? both of which served as non-alcoholic alternatives to the drinking happening on the other side of the festival.
"None of this would have happened five years ago, so it?s great to see how far we?ve progressed [as a community]," he explained. "And it?s not that Buffalo is a non-progressive city. It?s just that our LGBT community never really found a voice [until recently.]"
Although Buffalo?s Annual Pride Festival is a bit smaller in comparison to other more well-known Pride celebrations such as Toronto or San Diego, it has grown significantly over the past 21 years and is continuing to attract more attendees from the greater Western New York area.
"We had a fairly notorious homophobic mayor in the early days [of Pride], so there was a real active defiance in a sense," said Ron Ehmke, a local artist and performer. "That?s definitely not the case anymore...Now we have the support of the straight community as well as major corporations."
The Pride Festival was not the only major event of the weekend, of course. People also flocked to the weekend?s Dyke March, Pride Parade, and Street Festival (the latter of which was held in the city?s historic Allentown district.) The turnout at these events also exceeded event organizers? expectations, thus infusing the weekend with yet another level of success.