Wedding-Themed Pride; Host first mass-marriage ceremony
By: Ashley Mark/TRT Reporter—
PORTLAND, Maine—With the historic passage of gay marriage in Maine in December 2012, the 27th annual Southern Maine Pride festivities were designed to highlight the “Marry ME” themed event.
“Now that Maine recognizes gay marriage, Pride organizers felt this was the perfect opportunity to offer a public forum to celebrate that win,” explained spokesperson Sid Tripp, Entertainment and Public Relations Coordinator with Proactive Resources Design. “The theme was also a clever wordplay on the state abbreviation, ME, and the popular proposal phrase.”
Southern Maine Pride began as a small grassroots movement and has grown exponentially in the last 27 years, according to Tripp, who has been working with Pride organizers for four years. [pullquote]“The mass wedding ceremony brought a lot of people out to celebrate and witness the state’s first mass gay marriage,” he explained.[/pullquote]
“This year the parade boasted over 1,000 participants and the festival featured more than 100 vendors,” Tripp stated.
The parade started in Monument Square in downtown Portland and proceeded to the festival site in Deering Oaks Park. Master of Ceremonies Khris Francis, a comedian and, according to the press release, one of Maine’s funniest entertainers, greeted Pride attendees. The festival began with opening remarks from Francis and included appearances by the Grand Marshals. These included Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck and Honorary Marshals Michael Snell and Steven Bridges, Maine’s first married gay couple. This year’s Pride Grand Marshal was openly gay inaugural poet Richard Blanco, who read the poem he delivered to President Obama at his inauguration on January 21, 2013, entitled “One Today.”
Tripp estimated the number of attendees at Southern Maine Pride was close to 10,000.
“The mass wedding ceremony brought a lot of people out to celebrate and witness the state’s first mass gay marriage,” he explained.
Pride organizers welcomed engaged or committed same-sex couples to participate in the en-masse wedding ceremony, one of the highlights of the day held at the beginning of the festival.
“In keeping with the 2013 ‘Marry ME’ theme, and in light of the newly enfranchised gay population in Maine, organizers believe it would be fitting to use the Southern Maine Pride Festival as a public forum to acknowledge and celebrate the legalization of same sex marriage in Maine, particularly at the site where the struggle for marriage equality has been fostered and advocated for decades,” the press release stated.
Nine couples were publicly married by non-denominational wedding officiants Diane York and Rev. Karen St. Peter, using pre-determined vows as friends, families and strangers stood witness. The couples even had the opportunity to enjoy their first married dance together on stage as Francis sang “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong.”
Courtney Vandermartin and Ivy Gibbs, both from Portland, were married in the wedding ceremony. The couple was engaged in November and said they felt the public ceremony witnessed by friends and family was the perfect way to celebrate their relationship.
“It feels so great, so new and exciting, to finally be married,” Vandermartin said shortly after the ceremony.
In addition to the wedding ceremony, the festival included performances by Naya’s Trance Belly Dancers, entertainers Cherry Lemonade and Desta Toot, Odyssey Kings, Khris Francis and musical guests Laura Bateman, Amy Allen and The Other Bones. [pullquote]The couples even had the opportunity to enjoy their first married dance together on stage as Francis sang “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong.”[/pullquote]
The festival also featured a wedding expo tent with vendors highlighting their wedding services, including place settings, floral arrangements, invitation designs, handmade rings, chocolates and catering.
“The wedding expo was great, certainly a highlight of the festival,” Tripp said. “The marriage ceremony was an integral part of the day, but the parade was also fun and the festival was more spread out through the park than in previous years.”
As a final highlight, Pride organizers realized a decades-long dream of having a Deering Oaks Fountain Rainbow Light Show this year. The Rainbow Light Show, funded by Dispatch Magazine, ran at dusk each night from June 9 through June 16. According to the press release, “The colored light show is intended to promote goodwill throughout the city during the week of Pride, and be a reminder of just how far the gay pride movement has progressed in 27 years.”
Organizers hope it will be an annual tradition to kick off future Pride festivals.
For more information on Southern Maine Pride, visit www.southernmainepride.org.