AKRON, Ohio — After hitting pause on the celebration in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Akron Pride Festival returned to the Rubber City on Saturday with a new look at a new location.
“One of the things we’ve probably taken for granted is the chance to get together. Concert, movies, all of those things,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan.
The 2021 celebration was moved from Hardesty Park to downtown in Lock 3 park as well as Lock 4 and Cascade Park.
“You can see form the turnout here that people want to be with their neighbors,” said Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. “They want to be with their friends, they want to feel a part of the community.”
With an estimated 20,000 people at the event in 2019, this year’s Pride festival will hopefully provide a much-needed shot in the arm for local businesses.
“This is a great parade route. There are over 200 vendors here. Thousands of people Listening to music, having food,” said Mayor Horrigan.
And while a city recovers economically, a community recovers emotionally.
“Being a researcher in LGBTQ health, we’ve seen so many devastating hits int he community,” said Andrew Snyder, who is on the faculty at Kent State University and was at the celebration helping with First Greater Akron’s LBGTQ community needs assessment.
“So many youths in particular have seen an abundance of barriers, unsafe spaces that they normally wouldn’t have been in,” Snyder said. “Inviting everyone back out and seeing each other, you can’t walk around without seeing someone that you maybe haven’t seen in a year or two. It’s just really special to see that.”
The celebration runs all day with fireworks in the evening. And even though temperatures soared in Summit County, many people were thankful to get out and celebrate something positive.
“There’s so much dissection and so much angst out there. To see people come together in unity to support one another. We’re all different, we’re all made up of different genes and different backgrounds,” Shapiro said. “To bring a crowd of people together to celebrate the diversity that we have is energizing and gives hope.”
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