A Hero’s wel­come for pa­rade

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

AF­TER more than a decade since Auck­land’s last gay pride pa­rade took its fi­nal bow Pon­sonby is set to come alive with ex­plo­sions of colour and se­quins for the Auck­land Pride Pa­rade on Fe­bru­ary 16.

Things have changed dra­mat­i­cally in the 12 years since the Hero Pa­rade and Fes­ti­val last stomped the city’s streets, Pride Pa­rade co-or­di­na­tor Jonathan Smith says.

‘‘Peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes have changed. In the first five years of Hero it was quite dif­fi­cult – there was a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity.

‘‘But this year there has been no neg­a­tiv­ity at all from res­i­dents or sup­pli­ers. Ev­ery­body is 100 per cent on board to make this hap­pen.’’

The pa­rade is part of a 13-day fes­ti­val tak­ing place in the city from Fe­bru­ary 9 and is ex­pected to at­tract a broad au­di­ence of 200,000 spec­ta­tors, in­clud­ing chil­dren, teenagers and the el­derly.

Or­gan­is­ers were forced to close en­tries for the Pon­sonby Rd pa­rade ahead of sched­ule with more than 1200 par­tic­i­pants and 40 floats al­ready con­firmed.

Mr Smith says the re­sponse has far ex­ceeded his ex­pec­ta­tions.

‘‘I wasn’t really sure just how the com­mu­nity would get in­volved and I wasn’t sure whether or not peo­ple even wanted it.’’

Mr Smith was in­volved in the Hero Pa­rade and Fes­ti­val dur­ing its nine-year run from 1992 to 2001 as one half of one of the coun­try’s top drag per­former duos, Buffy and Bimbo.

The pa­rade at­tracted around 100,000 spec­ta­tors an­nu­ally but when it ended it left the Hero Char­i­ta­ble Trust $142,398 in debt. It was later re­placed by the Big Gay Out.

This is the first time the Gay Les­bian Bi­sex­ual and Trans­gen­der com­mu­nity has re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial sup­port for a pa­rade from Auck­land Coun­cil which contributed $100,000.

It is also the first time mem­bers of the New Zealand De­fence Force will march in uni­form in the pa­rade.

‘‘It’s a real ac­knowl­edg­ment of where the GLBT com­mu­nity has come but there’s also a ma­jor state­ment from the De­fence Force that they cel­e­brate the GLBT per­son­nel and they look at this as be­ing a strength not a weak­ness.’’

Po­lice of­fi­cers who reg­is­tered for the pa­rade will still take part but will not be rep­re­sent­ing the po­lice force af­ter they were told they could not march in uni­form, Mr Smith says.

This year’s Pride Re­mem­brance Float will ac­knowl- edge those lost to breast and prostate can­cer and youth sui­cide as well as HIV and Aids in keep­ing with the pa­rade’s ‘‘one com­mu­nity’’ theme.

Mr Smith says it has been dif­fi­cult to en­gage Auck­land’s young ‘‘rain­bow’’ com­mu­nity in this year’s pa­rade.

‘‘I think for them they have not ex­pe­ri­enced this and they pos­si­bly don’t un­der­stand it. I think once they see what hap­pens on Fe­bru­ary 16 they’ll prob­a­bly un­der­stand what com­mu­nity really means.’’

The 1.5km pa­rade route trav­els up Pon­sonby Rd from West­ern Park to Three Lamps from 4pm. Pon­sonby Rd and all ad­join­ing streets will be closed to traf­fic from noon un­til 9pm.

Go to bit.ly/UxUa74 for full in­for­ma­tion on road clo­sures.

Go to auck­land­pride fes­ti­val.org.nz for more in­for­ma­tion on the Auck­land Pride Fes­ti­val.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Pon­sonby Pride: Auck­land Pride Pa­rade co-or­di­na­tor Jonathan Smith is bring­ing the pa­rade back to Pon­sonby’s streets.

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