"Motor City Pride" to Leave Ferndale, going to Hart Plaza
Monday Feb. 14th 2011 Valentine's Day
In a press release today, officials from the organization that puts on the annual Gay Lesbian Pride festival known as Motor City Pride have announced that the 2011 festival will be held in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit this year instead of downtown Ferndale. They state that this move will allow them to grow the event into a two day affair, will allow for more parking, and will help them raise more funds. They also seek more room for the event after having pretty much filled up the western half of downtown Ferndale for past ten years. While I disagree strongly with their decision, for a host of reasons, I do wish them the best of luck and hope that the event is successful in every way.
There is some irony in the move back to downtown Detroit, as this is where the state's first three gay pride parades were held beginning in 1986. One of the reasons I was brought to Michigan back in the mid-eighties was to begin organizing gay pride parades, as I had been doing in Columubus, Ohio. (Today, the Ohio Gay Pride Parades attract 100,000 people annually, and I have been invited to attend the 30th anniversary parade in that city this coming June.)
A reporter has already asked me what I thought about Ferndale "losing" the festival to Detroit.
Since Ferndale was not asked to compete or hold discusssions about this year's event, I would
suggest that it was solely the decision by the Motor City Pride board, While I am disappointed that the festival will not be held in Ferndale, it was out of our control to influence a decision already made.
The truth is there is plenty of room to grow the event in Ferndale, with the entire eastern half of our downtown available - just as it is used during the DreamCruise each year. There is also no reason Ferndale would not consider a two day event. I have advocated for that for many years.
There is also plenty of untapped corporate sponsorships available from Ferndale, but that requires plenty of advance groundwork, relationship building and ongoing communication.
A large part of the decision to move the event was financial. Festival organizers lose out plenty of dollars to the bars, clubs, and restaurants in downtown Ferndale each year. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in these local businesses that now may go to festival organizers if they hold at Hart Plaza the only beer or liquor concessions. These local Ferndale businesses could have been more supportive as they reaped such benefits from this annual event. Since I help organize many other similar annual events, I know they would have said yes.
I also think the City of Ferndale became too strident in charging high costs to festival organiziers. In its zeal to recoup costs, the city charged Motor City Pride over $11,000 last year for police, fire, and public works costs. While not unexpected in these days of cities going into the red, the result is the city was penny-wise and pound-foolish. In trying to save $11,000 we may have cost the city overall $1 million. Oddly enough though, the City of Detroit may charge simiar or higher amounts for the event in Hart Plaza.
But annual Gay Pride events should not be based on money or profit. These events were created over forty years ago to celebrate a community that was coming out of the shadows. It is a time and a place for people to be and feel free. It is about coming together, being with each other, and showing the world that we are proud to be gay. The reason the Ferndale events grew so huge, was that we were no longer hiding in a parking garage or on a college campus, but could literally take over an entire downtown for a day. Part of the magic that attracted the throngs was being in the stores, the streets, the clubs and restaurants of most of a downtown. I hope Hart Plaza is as welcoming and fun.
For ten years, three different Ferndale mayors were willing to marry gay couples on the lawn of City Hall. Gay families held picnics in the Ferndale parks. Lesbian Women held marches to take back the streets; all in a city with the largest gay/lesbian per capita population in Michigan. And when the state's first openly gay mayor elected by the voters left office, the City Council appointed another openly Gay man as their new mayor.
Of course there can still be pride events in Ferndale, as well as in Detroit or any other city in southeastern Michigan. And maybe the huge metro area gay crowds will flock to Hart Plaza this summer. But regardless, Ferndale will always be here as a beacon for diversity and will always be home to thousands of GLBT persons and their allies. When the officials of Motor City Pride decide to come back to Ferndale, the residents, city officials, and businesses stand ready to welcome them.