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Akron Pride Fest Helped People 'Fill Up Their Buckets' Of Love

photo of Pride Fest dog

Akron held its first Pride Festival in nearly two decades over the weekend, just hours after President Trump issued a directive not to allow anyone who’s transgender into the military. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the atmosphere in the face of renewed attacks on LGBT rights.

The pride festival on the west side was the first under that title, after the previous Out In Akron ended in 2001. Thousands of people showed up for food, music and camaraderie.

Lynette Kreidler of Canton was there offering free hugs along with her 19-year-old, who identifies as transgender. Kreidler said Trump’s announcement the night before may actually have spurred more people to come to Hardesty Park on Saturday to heal.

“Somebody actually came up and was saying this feels like they’re 'filling up their bucket, because it’s so empty right now.' So this is a good opportunity to share that.”

Along with music and food, the festival kicked off with a parade from Highland Square that included Mayor Dan Horrigan. Many at the festival lauded the mayor for his outreach to the LGBT community.

A new festival life cycle
The previous Out In Akron event was held annually in Highland Square from 1997 until 2001. It was very similar to the relaunched pride fest over the weekend, but Out In Akron also included cabaret acts, films and educational panels.

J.T. Buck – artistic director of Coach House Theatre -- was at this year’s Pride Festival, and he hopes it becomes an annual event like its predecessor.

“Out In Akron was a festival that the community put together years ago. This was kind of a late ‘90s thing; it was around the time of ‘Ellen.’ Festivals have a life-cycle and that one kind of reached its end but I think it’s kind of reincarnated in a different form here.”

Out In Akron was a multi-day festival and included guests such as Boy George, director John Waters and actor and playwright Harvey Firestein.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.