Hilo Pride draws rainbow crowd celebrating ‘Fabulous Free Future’
June 24, 2023, 6:08 PM HST
* Updated June 26, 10:54 AM
Aaries Judd-Sombrio, who’s drag persona is Aaries the Extra, got up at 3 a.m. on Saturday to do his bright green hair and psychedelic makeup. He also put the finishing touches of his elaborate outfit that featured rhinestones and platform boots.
He wanted to look fabulous for the 11th annual Hawai‘i Island LGBTQ+ Pride Parade in downtown hilo.
“I feel like it’s a fashion statement because it’s a time to really, really show who you are and not be afraid,” Judd-Sombrio said. “Pride is a safe space for us to really express who we are.”
And the participants did indeed express themselves, despite a short-lived protest by a religious group that had signs that included: “Fear God” and “Repent or Perish.”
Gay right supporters and advocates in rainbow colors and decorated in an assortment of glitter and costumes also flooded downtown Hilo to begin the festival celebration with this yearʻs theme: “Fabulous Free Future.”
Hilo resident Kale Lehman said he’s been to more than 20 pride events around the United States and was not surprised by the protest group.
“As we all know, it’s always going to be around. They have their rights to their opinion and free speech so it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “They never ruin the day. Pride always continues and you go on about your business. And, love always prevails.”
With a new parade route this year, attendees gathered at the staging area south of Mo‘oheau Bandstand and the surrounding park while pride supporters showed off colorful rainbow flags and signs that said “Love is Love” as they traveled along Kamehameha Avenue before turning onto Haili Street. Marchers then headed south on Kino‘ole Street before turning again at Ponahawai Street to make their way back to the bayfront.
Following the parade, many gathered at the Mo‘oheau Bandstand to show off their fun outfits and visit a number of food vendors and stands while music and shows carried on in the background.
Fred Kamperman and Jozef Bosman showed off their quite extravagant, brightly-colored hats that they hand made by putting a straw wreath around a hard hat and using flowers from their garden. The entire project took about two hours to make, they said.
“We just got creative and we love gardening and said, ‘Why not?'” Kamperman said. “It has hibiscus, song of India, tea and anthuriums…”
While people were sharing stories about their outfits and taking pictures, others were talking about the reason they attended the parade and festival.
Patricia Erbschloe, of Hilo, came out to be supportive her daughter, who is gay, and others in that community.
“You know that’s the point – God made all of us,” she said. “And he made it in his form.”
This year’s theme of “Fabulous Free Future” was crafted to shed light on several issues currently affecting the community throughout the United States, specifically anti-drag queen laws, anti-transgender health care laws and book banning in schools and public libraries.
Pride weekend had a plethora of events islandwide, including drag shows and pride brunches. The celebration culminated with the festival that included food vendors, a Pride Picnic Drag Stage, music by 14 Daze and The Puna Men’s Chorus, as well as performances by the Hilo Community Players, Puna Taiko and the singers of the Hilo Education Arts Repertory Theatre.
The family-friendly festival was open to all ages and included plenty of food vendors, keiki activities, community resources and local merchants.