The smell of sunscreen filled the air from the intersection of Central Avenue and Girard Boulevard to Expo New Mexico, as Albuquerque residents were shoulder-to-shoulder for the city’s annual Pride Fest Parade on June 9.
The three day event celebrated its last day as thousands of people lined up along Central Avenue and waved at community organizers, businesses and local politicians in rainbow decorated floats.
Before the parade, representatives from Mayor Tim Keller’s office delivered a statement about the festivities, followed by a rainbow ribbon cutting ceremony that marked the beginning of the day’s festivities.
Albuquerque Police Department motorcyclists led the way through the empty street — sidelined with Pride supporters — making way for members of a local marching band, Encantada. Each member of the band carried an instrument covered with blue, purple, red, orange, yellow or green paint.
Floats cruised down Central Avenue with smiling and waving occupants as rainbow streams taped to car doors and bumpers waved in the breeze.
Trailers decorated with rainbow flags, banners and inflatable props remained steadfast as the float’s half-a-dozen occupants danced and moved about.
Some participants in the parade tossed candy to the crowd, while others tossed condoms, rainbow-colored headbands or bead necklaces. Activist groups handed out pamphlets discussing political candidates or causes.
To keep the crowd cool in the more than 90 degree heat, some participants sprayed mist or splashed guests using water guns.
No two floats looked the same.
Of the many businesses present, R. Greenleaf Organics, a local cannabis dispensary, showed off a trailer modified to look like a pirate ship, equipped with costumes for the crew.
Another float, decorated in chains, held occupants wearing leather hats, chaps and vests, sponsored by Albuquerque Leather Daddys, an LGBTQ inclusive community focused on leather, kinks and BDSM.
Almost all floats were decorated with rainbow streamers and LGBTQ pride flags.
After the parade, visitors kept the festivities going at Expo New Mexico by supporting local artists and food vendors. Guests also attended performances courtesy of the 2018 New Mexico Title Holders, mariachi bands and many more.
Javier Leo is a sophomore at the University of New Mexico studying medical laboratory sciences. He attended and participated in the Pride Parade. Wrapping a pride flag around his shoulders, Leo said he came “to celebrate (his) pride of being a gay man.”
Leo said he arrived at 10 a.m. and “half-and-half” marched with the parade and later cheered on from the sides.
Leo said he had fun at the parade and hopes events like this will “achieve equality in...the community itself and equality that everyone accepts in everyone.”
Ernesto Martinez, a parole officer, attended the Pride Parade. He said he thought the parade was beautiful.
“I hope that it achieves equal rights, an understanding that everyone has equal rights, that we’re all God’s children,” Martinez said. “We all gotta love each other and teach acceptance of each other and one another.”
Martinez also said events like this remember “loved ones that have struggled in the past.”
“We want everyone to accept us,” he said. “We want people to accept us regardless of who we are.”
By noon, attendees filled Nob Hill restaurants, returned to their cars or marched with the last floats to Expo New Mexico. Cars reclaimed Central Avenue as soon as City of Albuquerque Employees collected trash and cleaned confetti and pamphlets from the street.
On June 7, Albuquerque Pride hosted a candlelight vigil to celebrate life at Morningside Park. As a prelude to Pride Fest, Albuquerque Pride hosted a night of dancing, music and fun at Expo New Mexico on June 8.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.