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Cleveland LGBTQ+ Pride Ride Takes To The Street Again On West Side

Cyclists lead the Pride Ride out of Edgewater Park in Cleveland. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cyclists lead the Pride Ride out of Edgewater Park in Cleveland.

A year ago, the coronavirus pandemic led to the postponement – and then cancellation – of Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ pride celebration. Organizers regrouped in the late summer with a socially distant caravan they called the Pride Ride.

On Saturday, the Pride Ride returned to Edgewater Park, now as COVID-19 cases ebb and state restrictions lift. Dozens of people on bicycles – many waving rainbow and blue, pink and white transgender pride flags – led a long line of cars through the Ohio City and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods, ending at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

A bus passes by at Cleveland's Pride Ride. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

“I’m actually super excited to see so many people out here and do something that feels almost normal again,” said Jay Parker.

Parker, who is a transgender man, carried a sign that read “My life matters.” It had been years since he attended a pride celebration, he said.

“Now that I’ve finally been able to come out and transition, and show my – I have two kids at home – show them that I’m proud to be me, I’m ready to celebrate that with my community and be celebrated and have a good time,” Parker said.

Hundreds of people turned out at Edgewater Park before the ride, many in cars decked out with balloons, flags and signs. Major companies in Cleveland, like Sherwin Williams and Nestlé, had a presence at the park. Political candidates worked the crowds, and there was at least one marriage proposal.

Kristin Hopkins, left, embraces Kelli Huff after Huff proposed to her at Cleveland's Pride Ride. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

A half hour before the ride kicked off, Kelli Huff got down on one knee to propose to Kristin Hopkins – who said yes. The couple came in from Pittsburgh, Huff said. Last year, they happened to be in Cleveland the day of the ride and made a point to return this year.

“I’ve been planning this for quite some time. I’ve had the ring for like probably about five months now,” Huff said, adding, “Just this morning she was telling me how I never, ever can keep a surprise.”

They weren’t the only people drawn to the ride from out of town. Mark Gorsuch and Jules Frazier drove an hour up to Cleveland from Ashland.

“Because we didn’t get Pride last year, and in 2019 I actually went to Stonewall 50 in New York City, and it was like such a big event, so I definitely was like in withdrawal from Pride,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch said he felt safe at the event, though he had worried about the possibility of protests. In fact one person with a sign and bullhorn did protest the ride, but at a distance and largely out of earshot.

The pair shared a picnic table with Sheela Carter and Breanna McGuigan.

“I’m like a little kid in a candy store, seriously, I’m really excited,” Carter said. “I love it. I like all the people supporting each other. It’s awesome.”

The Cleveland Pride Ride heads west on Detroit Avenue in the city's Ohio City neighborhood. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

After a year of sheltering from others during the pandemic, it was a bit of a jarring experience to join crowds again, said Matthew Graves, the development association with the LGBT center.

“But it’s a lot of fun to see people come out and just be happy and one with each other and really take in the best of what Cleveland has to offer, which is community and our great parks system here at Edgewater,” he said.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.