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Hundreds Turn Out For 10th Anniversary Pride Parade, Festival

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People march in the 10th annual Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Parade on Saturday, June 25, in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel)

Anyone searching for a rainbow Saturday, June 25, on the Big Island only had to look as far as downtown Hilo.

Rainbow flags, big and small, and attire were the norm as the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus community — and their supporters — turned out in droves for the 10th annual Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Parade and Festival.

Drag performers ride in a car participating in the Pride Parade on Saturday in Hilo. (Photo by Megan Moseley/special to Big Island Now)

Hundreds of people lined the streets in downtown Hilo as the parade marched through town Saturday morning. People of all walks of life, from candidates seeking election, skateboarders and bikers to politicians, roller-skaters and, of course, drag queens, walked or rode the route with pride, celebrating equality and freedom of expression along the way. Even Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth got in on the action, riding in the parade on a bicycle that is part of the county’s bike-share program.

Music, cheers, clapping and occasional bubbles, along with words of encouragement and support, were all part of the experience.

The action moved to Mo‘oheau Park on bayfront following the parade, with the festival starting at noon. Entertainment, food and vendor booths filled the greenspace around the bandstand. There was something for everybody, including keiki games and activities. Vendor booths featured organizations and agencies such as the Puna Men’s Chorus, Flirty Hippie, Equality HI, Cherry Healing Center Acupuncture Clinic, Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride, which organizes the annual Pride celebration, and Kumukahi Health + Wellness, among others.

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Roth opened the festival by reading a proclamation declaring June as the 10th anniversary Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Hawai‘i County. The proclamation encouraged all citizens to eliminate prejudice wherever it exists and actively promote the principles of equity, liberty and justice. It also asked island residents to celebrate diversity by taking part in community events throughout the month that focus on and highlight the Big Island’s LGBTQ+ community.

Roth said the proclamation and Pride are about justice.

“This is about making sure we treat everybody with dignity and respect,” he said after reading the document to the crowd. “We are all in this together, and I’m so glad to be here with you today.”

Dr. Jill Dawrs, a chiropractor who lives and practices in Hilo, and her wife, Karen Renee, were two of those who attended Saturday’s festivities. Dawrs said her favorite part about Pride is that it’s the perfect time for people to freely express and be themselves. She told Big Island Now that people should be able to choose who they want to love and how they want to be without government interference.

“I love the colorful rainbows and all the people just expressing themselves and being fabulous,” Renee told Big Island Now. “I love to be fabulous and I love to watch everybody else be fabulous.”

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Dawrs and Renee, who spends half her time in Los Angeles as a Hollywood set designer, have been married since last September.

“Pride is important because we have been marginalized for so many years, for generations and generations,” Renee said. “And it’s important that we are able to come out and be ourselves and be proud of who we are because love is what it’s all about, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about because you have love in your life.”

Hundreds of people lined Kamehameha Avenue on Saturday in downtown Hilo as the 10th annual Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Parade marched through town. (Photo by Nathan Christophel)

Darren David of Hōlualoa said Pride reminds people that celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ+ community aren’t consistent everywhere 365 days a year.

“And I think it’s important for everyone to see the difference, and hopefully this is, you know, the change you want to see in the world,” he told Big Island Now.

He loves that everyone comes out for Pride with such confidence, openness and support.

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“It’s just a safe space for everyone to really be themselves,” David said.

Pride important to Jessica Redford of Hōlualoa specifically because she is a nurse with Kumukahi Health + Wellness.

“We want to make sure that we level the divide that there is right now in health care between people who are straight and people who are somewhere else in their sexuality or gender,” she told Big Island Now. “So we’re trying to provide those services for folks. We want everyone on Hawai‘i Island to know that we’re here for them, so it’s important to get that visibility in this community so they can come get the services they deserve.”

Redford said her favorite part about Pride is seeing the way everyone’s sexuality and gender identity expresses itself.

“The fact that they can be totally themselves here, not have to hide it, not have to suppress it. That’s really fantastic,” she said.

Lindsay Emerson of Hilo added that her favorite part about Pride is that she gets to celebrate with her community and express who she really is openly.

“Pride is important because we are changing a really strong cultural paradigm,” Emerson told Big Island Now. “This hetero-normative culture that we live in is stifling for a lot of us. So celebrating Pride is how we are breaking away at that.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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