Park Slope boomed with pride Saturday as rainbow-clad marchers celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities stepped off for the borough’s famous parade along the neighborhood’s Fifth Avenue.
The 17th annual nighttime Brooklyn Pride Parade, which organizers say was bigger than ever before with nearly 50 organizations participating, kicked off from its new starting point at Sterling Place and headed in a new direction until it ended at Ninth Street.
Members of the LGBT community said that the extravaganza served as a jubilant day to come out and be who they are without having to worry about any backlash.
“It’s so cliche to say ‘come out of the closest,’ but it’s nice to have a moment to come out of the closest in front of our neighbors,” said Nick Taranto of Windsor Terrace, who has gone to Brooklyn Pride for the past 10 years and attended this years extravaganza with his boyfriend Lee Garr.
“It’s nice to see all of us beautiful, wonderful, fabulous gay people celebrating together,” said Garr.
Brooklyn Pride’s Jerry Allred said that because the day-long gay pride festival, which always precedes the glitter-centric parade, was moved to trendy Fifth Avenue after years of being held on Prospect Park West, more revelers were attracted to the extravaganza, which this year drew well-over 20,000 people — and nearly as many dogs sporting rainbow bandanas.
“It gave more hype to it,” Allred said, adding that when the six-block-long festival from Third to Ninth streets came to a close, folks who flocked into the bustling thoroughfare’s bars and restaurants to continue the celebration later took to the streets for the jaunty spectacle.
“During the parade people came out and stood there and cheered,” said Allred, who rode atop a float with Borough President Markowitz, the grand marshal of the parade. “The hype was there — it was very moving.”
Rainbow flag bearing city officials, including City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn — an outspoken lesbian — and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), paraded along the route, greeting onlookers. Other candidates for mayor, including former congressman Anthony Weiner, public advocate Bill De Blasio, city comptroller John Liu, and former comptroller Bill Thompson, were also on hand.
Cheerleaders from the volunteer squad Cheer New York even performed mounts and executed stunts during the cavalcade.
Youngsters from the gay-friendly, co-ed scouting troop dubbed 5th Brooklyn Scouts, which was formed last year by a Windsor Terrace dad, also joined the parade.
“We felt very honored to be embraced by the community and to be included in this year’s activities,” said troop founder Todd Schweikert. “It felt good to share with the public who are we and what we are about.”
The parade kicked off just two hours after the close of the Brooklyn Pride Festival, which featured food, shopping, a play area for kids and families in Washington Park, and two stages for live music, comedy, dance, and other performances.
“A lot of people paved the way for this to happen,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Adrian Matthews as he celebrated during the festival in front of Fifth Avenue’s Excelsior Bar, a gay hangout. “I feel great about it and here I am representing it.”