Kassidy Temm stood in the bed of a pickup truck parked on Monument Way on Saturday morning, directing a crew on the finer points of decorating a float for the Pride Portland parade.

The crew, who are students of The Maine Girls’ Academy and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network Southern Maine chapter, were planning to carry along a confetti machine and a bubble-making machine and rely on lots of rainbow colored balloons to make their creation stand out from the rest and possibly snag one of the prizes awarded to floats and marchers. Temm said while they had marched many times in the parade, this was the first time her group decided to create a float.

“It’s such a great environment,” said Temm, a 2018 academy graduate.

The float was among about a dozen featured in the parade up Congress Street at noon Saturday, an annual event, drawing huge crowds of cheering spectators and almost as many marchers.

Pride Portland parade represents Maine’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. The parade has been a June fixture for more than 40 years. Pride Portland bills its parade as the largest pride parade in northern New England. It is part of a weeklong series of events, topped off by Saturday’s parade, a festival at Deering Oaks Park, dances, concerts and after parties.

This year’s parade featured a record 160 marching groups.

“It’s the largest parade we have ever had,” said Quinn Gormley, treasurer of the Pride Portland steering committee.

Gormley attributed the large numbers to this year’s political climate, when the LGBTQ community is feeling under siege.

“We have a growing bunch of allies especially during these trying political times,” Gormley said.

The marchers and floats are judged by a panel of community members based on this year’s theme “Rise Up,” which refers to racial justice, inclusiveness, solidarity and economic empowerment, Gormley said.

Church groups, businesses and school groups are some of the biggest supporters.

Kris Partridge led a group of about 50 participants from Barclay’s financial services company to float a giant yellow globe and nearly 200 balloons, the group’s first effort at building a float.

“It’s going to be a big sunshine for the ‘Rise Up’ theme,” Partridge said.

Crystal Naylor, store team leader at Target in South Portland, cheered on as her colleagues put finishing touches on their float, the first the store team had ever built.

“We are having a blast. We would love to win,” Naylor said.

Christopher O’Connor, one of Pride Portland’s co-founders and development director of Equality Maine , the oldest and largest statewide organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Mainers, said this was the first year the 34-year-old organization sponsored a float in the parade, mainly because he had been too busy helping to organize the parade in past years. He even taught a workshop on how to build a float, so he was excited to put his knowledge to work this year.

“We just want people to know we are going strong. Our community is our strength. The work didn’t end with marriage equality. We are here to stand up for the people under relentless attack,” O’Connor said.

The city of Portland had an official spot in the parade this year with more than 100 marchers including Mayor Ethan Strimling and the city council, city staff and family members. The India Street Public Health Center and the City’s Public Health Division also marched. Portland Public Schools sent a big yellow school bus as an entry in the parade for the fourth year in a row.

The Portland City Council issued a proclamation on June 4 recognizing June as LGBTQ pride month. The lights that illuminate Portland City Hall are rainbow colors for the month of June, and the new lights in the Deering Oaks Fountain have also been turned to rainbow colors.

 

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