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Rochester Pride Parade

downtown Rochester, Saturday, July 17

You're standing downtown at the corner of East and Scio and a fire truck is inching by. There's a man to your right wearing short shorts and dancing the pony with a huge rainbow flag. An eight-foot bottle of hair product rolls past, escorted by a man (see the moustache?) with an impeccable blond bob, sporting sequin-covered roller blades and a dazzling blue gown. Don't be alarmed: You are not in a John Waters movie. This is the annual Rochester Pride Parade, and it is fabulous.

For sheer exuberance, you can't beat the Pride Parade. "It started in the '70s as a march," says Chairperson David Kosel, "but over the years it's become a celebration of the diverse, supportive gay community in Rochester. Religious organizations, gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses all participate, to make the point that we all belong."

Forty-eight organizations had entries this year, including Bullwinkle's Café, whose proprietor Betty Meyer received this year's Lifetime Achievement Award. The crowd, which topped 5,000 by official police estimate, cheered each "Fashion"-themed float. Even through what one parader called the "holy gauntlet" --- the stretch of road near the expressway that was lined with scripture-shouting protestors --- marchers kept their heads and spirits high.

Charles Varin plays tuba with the Bassically Treblemakers, a 20- to 25-piece community band that marched in the Pride Parade.

Is this your first Pride Parade?

No, I've participated in the Parade for five years total. This year, we also marched in the Pride Parades in Washington, DC, Toronto, Syracuse, and Buffalo.

What were some of the songs you played this year?

"These Boots Are Made for Walking," but "Walking" is crossed out, and "Marching" is written in --- it's a marching band joke; "The Gay Way March," which surprisingly has nothing to do with being gay; and "Chapel of Love," which was mostly for the benefit of the fundamentalist protestors.

We also ended up playing it for a wedding party who came out onto Strathallen while we were lining up before the parade.

--- Meg Devine