Parade, Festival Highlight Packed Pride Weekend in Hilo

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A drag performer entertains crowds during the 2019 Pride Festival in Hilo. After two years of drive-through events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride Weekend events return in person this year. (Photo by Laura Sherwood Photography/courtesy of Hawai’i Island LGBTQ+ Pride website)

Everybody is encouraged to come out this weekend to show support and celebrate the Big Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus community members.

Pride Month has been packed with activities so far, but the main event is Saturday, June 25. The Pride Parade will once again meander from Ponahawai Street to Waiānuenue Avenue and then to Kamehameha Avenue throughout downtown Hilo beginning at 11 a.m. The Pride Festival will follow from noon to 4 p.m. at the Mo‘oheau Bandstand and surrounding park.

Both events are free and open to the public. There also is no cost to participate in the parade. The celebration is organized by Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Phill Russell, president of Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride, told Big Island Now.

The festival will include music by cover band 14 Daze Out, two stages with drag performances and much more. Russell said there will be activities for keiki including a scavenger hunt, arts, crafts and games, a clothing swap where people can come and get gently used clothing, a breast-feeding station for moms and Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth will attend to make his proclamation for Pride Day.


“It will be occurring at different times, so everybody can kind of try to get to everything they want to do,” Russell said.

A Pride Picnic at the park, supported by the Hilo Community Players, is also scheduled at noon during the festival and will feature several drag performances by queens from all ages, games, contests and prizes. The picnic will be hosted by Palehua.

There are also some new events this year happening throughout Hilo during the weekend, including the Hilo Pride Lu‘au, a benefit for Kumukahi Health + Wellness, from 5-9 p.m. Friday, June 24, at Fairway Grill and Pride Madness from 8-11 p.m. Saturday at the Hilo Axe Lounge, which will feature music by the Average Joes.

“There is a lot happening,” Russell said.

Following the festival Saturday, don’t miss PINK! The Official Pride After Party from 4-7 p.m. at the Hilo Town Tavern. Then on Sunday, June 26, Equality HI is hosting two events, the I Heart Pride Weekend Hike from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to the Ka‘ū Heart Rock Fissure and the After Pride Barbecue and Potluck from noon to 6 p.m. at Coconut Island in Hilo.


With everything happening this weekend, Hilo is sure to be filled with pride. And the organizers of the Pride celebration are excited to be back at it in person. The Pride celebration was conducted as a drive-through event in 2020 and 2021 at the county building in Hilo because of the pandemic.

“We had two years where we continued, but it was drive-through, so everything was opposite,” Russell said. “You were the parade and people decorated their cars, drove through the parking lot at the county building, so I think people are really excited, jazzed, that it’s back in person — that we get to be out of our vehicles and we get to hang out and have our community back.”

While they are happy to be back in person and the events are mostly outdoors, they also remain conscious about the ongoing COVID pandemic.

“We’re asking people to wear masks in the bandstand area just because that’s where all the bleachers are; people are going to be right next to each other and there has been a lot of spread going on,” Russell said.

Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride received a generous donation of locally made hand sanitizer that also will be distributed throughout the park during the festival and at different vendors and booths. The group also will be giving away masks at the bandstand so people can just grab one if needed.


“I’m very proud of our Pride Committee, pulling this off. We feel more organized that we have before, and going back to an actual parade and in-person festival is a whole different beast,” Russell said. “I’m also proud that we’ve continued to do all of our community events throughout the pandemic, we’ve just adapted. So we still have a Halloween Haunt, we still have the Gifts From Gays, we still had parades, just in a different way. So it just shows how we’re able to adapt and continue thriving no matter what gets thrown at us.”

This year marks the 10th consecutive Hawai‘i Island LQBTQ+ Pride celebration. Its theme, “10 Years OUT, Past – Present – Proud,” not only honors that milestone, it also highlights perhaps the most common shared experience between members of the LGBTQ+ community: the decision to be out about one’s identity.

“Annual Pride celebrations are one of the ways that LGBTQ+ folk make themselves known in their communities,” a press release from Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride said. “Not only are these events personally liberating, they serve as encouragement for others who might be struggling with their truth. Pride celebrations send a message to feel positive about who we are and to consider coming out for the first time.”

The weekend’s celebrations also highlight the history of Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride as an agent for change on the Big Island, including pavilions that will display stories and images from the group’s 10 years as well as themes and history of the LGBTQ+ movement worldwide.

“It’s important to be visible to continue working towards equality in the state,” Russell said. “In the nation, we see some of those rights being clawed back as far as women’s rights and that could just as easily happen to the LGBTQ community. So being visible, creating community, making sure we’re still advocating for things we need to is pretty important.”

For more information about this weekend’s Pride festivities, visit the Hawai’i Island LGBTQ+ Pride website or find the group on Facebook and Instagram.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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