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Boston’s Pride Parade was a celebration, and a statement

Dancers in Boston’s Pride Parade performed.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Copley Square exploded in color Saturday afternoon as the Boston Pride Parade rolled down Boylston Street, rainbow flags flying, sequins sparkling, and chilly gray skies largely ignored.

Some of the thousands of parade participants were still in strollers; others proudly sported “make aging fabulous” T-shirts. Marchers ranged from four-legged to four-wheeled, as dogs in tutus paraded alongside trucks with confetti falling out the windows.

“Do you want to be in the parade?” one organizer asked a group of teenage girls.

“Yes!” they shrieked immediately.

Saturday marked the 46th annual parade, a major celebration of the area’s gay community. This year was the first time organizers have expanded the celebrations from a week to a month of festivities. While crowds appeared to thin farther down the parade route, Copley Square itself was packed with jubilant revelers.


“The message is to celebrate the equality we have now and to still strive in reaching equality not just here but around the country,” said Boston Pride vice president Linda DeMarco. “And think about all our brothers and sisters in other states who are still fighting.”

Political teams were out in force, from volunteers for Attorney General Maura Healey, the first openly gay attorney general in Massachusetts, to Treasurer Deb Goldberg.

“Pride is a reminder of the fight for civil rights,” Healey said, bouncing among supporters in a pair of rainbow Converse sneakers. “We’ve worked hard, and there’s more work to be done.”

Goldberg’s team brought a gleaming 1960 Cadillac El Dorado, which Lady Sabrina — a drag queen dressed in a busty Wonder Woman costume — pointed to when asked if she would be marching.

“In 5-inch heels I will not be marching — I will be riding in that,” she said.

“Pride is not just a celebration. It’s a political statement,” said Lady Sabrina, 46. “It’s the one time a year where people who don’t necessarily intermingle with our culture get to see us.”


The rain started falling at about 1 p.m., but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm of paradegoers.

“Twenty years ago we couldn’t have a celebration like this. Now Massachusetts has led on gay marriage and transgender rights, and the city is celebrating,” said US Senator Edward J. Markey from under an umbrella. “You can feel it.”

Boston Pride president Sylvain Bruni said the weather may have led to slightly smaller crowds on the sidelines than the year before. But he said the total turnout for the parade was the same as last year, as more organizations registered to march this year than ever before.

“We haven’t done anything different in terms of outreach and advertising this year than we have in the past. I think it’s more of an indication of the growing attention that society in general is bringing to LGBT rights,” Bruni said. “As more and more people really want to show their support, I think people just naturally want to support us more, and that’s why it’s growing.”

June has traditionally been designated as “pride month” throughout the country, DeMarco said, and Boston has typically celebrated on the second weekend. But, she said, this year organizers decided to seize the entire month.

This year’s festivities will include black and Latino pride events, such as a comedy show on June 16 at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Museum of Fine Arts is holding a special exhibit featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer artists, she said, which will display later this month. And the organization will hold workshops, including one on financial literacy and living wills.


“This city is so diverse, and we’re so lucky to be in a state that gives us equality,” said DeMarco. “We decided to embrace the month.”

An hour before the parade began, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Pastor Judy Hanlon, who cofounded the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, were given Old South Church’s Open Door award in recognition of their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

“I have kind of what you might call a huge crush on you,” the Rev. Anthony Livolsi told the women during the ceremony in the church, “in the way you two go toe-to-toe with evil, the way you square off against injustice.” Warren hugged him as he returned to his seat, while Hanlon, whose task force provides resources and support for LGBTQ people fleeing persecution in their home countries, laughed.

Warren, who was greeted with cheers, standing applause, and a waving feather headdress, called on the crowd to mobilize against hate, especially as espoused by Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

“This is a day of celebration. I have my boa in the car; I am raring to march in the parade,” Warren said. “But there are big fights to come. There is a man who hopes to be the leader of this great nation and he hopes to get there by hating others . . . The only way we beat bullies is we stand up and fight back.”


Saturday’s festivities drew a mix of newcomers and veterans, all energized by the exuberant atmosphere.

Jayla Davis, 20, has lived in Boston all her life but attended the parade for the first time Saturday, with her sister and sister-in-law.

“To just get a feel of all the love for everybody — it’s wonderful,” she said. “Ooh, can I have a T-shirt?” She called to a marcher.

Tracey Soule, 34, has attended every parade for the past 10 years.

“We’re just supporting our neighborhood,” she said. “It seems to be different every year, which is I think why we keep coming back.”

Vivian Wang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vwang3. Evan Allen can be reached Follow her on Twitter @EvanMAllen.