The William G. Mather flew the rainbow colors without hesitation June 16, 2007. Docked perpendicular to Erieside Avenue, the steamship-turned-museum, long a symbol of Cleveland progress, was visible to those trekking East Ninth Street to the Cleveland Pride Parade and Festival held at Voinovich Park.
The event boasted more than 100 vendors and four entertainment stages, in addition to ample shade and Lake Erie sparkling in sunlight.
Pride demonstrations in Cleveland can be traced back to the 1970s, driven in part by larger anti-fascist groups responding to both Anita Bryant and the 1969 Stonewall riots. But Cleveland Pride as it is known today debuted June 18, 1989.
Called “Lesbian and Gay Pride ’89: An Out of the Closet Experience,” the celebration was planned at a kitchen table on Little Italy's Coltman Road by committee co-chairs Drew Cari and Martha Pontoni. Cleveland’s LGBTQ community would finally have visibility in their own city.
A successful event, it wasn’t until 27 years later that Cleveland Pride faced its first cancellation. Citing security concerns following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, Cleveland Pride was canceled in 2016.
In lieu, a separate march and festival, Pride in the CLE, emerged, blazing a path across the Detroit-Superior Bridge to Public Square. The two events consolidated in 2018.
More than 30,000 attended 2019’s festivities, only to see the event modified again the next two years by the pandemic.
Pride in the CLE returns June 4 — in-person, undaunted and with what many expect to be record-setting attendance.