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Hilo’s First-Ever Gay Pride Parade/Festival Saturday

Posted July 4, 2013, 09:00 PM HST Updated July 5, 2013, 01:02 PM HST
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An event Saturday will celebrate Mayor Billy Kenoi's proclamation of July 6 as "Gay Pride Day." Pat Rocco, at far right, will be honored for his pioneering efforts in the movement. Courtesy Image.

***Updated at 10:07 a.m. Friday, June 5.***

For East Hawaii’s LGBT community, the timing couldn’t be better.

Right on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, Hilo will be holding its first-ever gay pride parade and festival on Saturday, July 6, which has been declared “Gay Pride Day” by Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi.

The parade kicks off at 11 a.m. at the parking lot adjacent to Mo`oheau Park. The parade’s path will take participants on a route that winds through the historic streets of Downtown Hilo before heading down Waianuenue and ending right back at the start site.

Richard Koob, co-founder of Kalani Honua Oceanside Retreat near Kalapana, will be the parade’s grand marshal.

The parade will culminate in a festival at Mo`oheau Park running from noon to 4 p.m.

The public is welcome to this alcohol-free event featuring food and fun, with dual entertainment areas to enjoy. Everything from rock and roll to folk music will be performed live, while drag kings and queens keep things lively.

Vendors and information booths will also be available for the public to enjoy, and parents seeking to entertain their kiddies can make use of the jump castles that will be available at this family-friendly affair.

And as you enjoy the festivities, know that you have 79-year-old Pat Rocco largely to thank.

That’s because the well-known Puna resident was instrumental in the establishment of the post-parade get-togethers.

In 1970, a year after the Stonewall gay pride parade in New York City, Rocco helped stage the first West Coast version in Hollywood, Calif.

According LAPride.org, the website for the gay- and human-rights organization Christopher Street West Assoc., Rocco then began taking on a more prominent role.

Mo`oheau Bandstand will be the location for Saturday Gay Pride Day Festival. File photo.

Mo`oheau Park, the bandstand of which is shown above, will be the location for Saturday’s Gay Pride Day Festival. File photo.

In its chronicle of the event, the website said  Rocco, a pioneer gay filmmaker, in 1973 pushed for the holding of a festival to coincide with the parade.

It said Rocco’s proposal was a hard sell for the revived CSW Committee.

“They thought I was crazy,” Rocco told the organization. “It was one thing to parade on Hollywood Boulevard but quite another for gay people to be on display for three days in the middle of Hollywood.”

Committee members finally came around, and the festival was born in 1974.

Rocco, who with his partner of 41 years has lived in Pahoa for three decades, told Big Island Now the recent high court action can only enhance the festivities.

“With the recent Supreme Court decisions on DOMA, this event will be even sweeter for the participants, and a full-circle of gay-centered achievement, from 1970 to 2013,” he said.

Anyone seeking more information on the event may contact Natasha Johns at (808) 217-1288.

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