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Springfield's first Pride parade celebrated community, acceptance

As she looked at the crowd gathered at Court Square for Springfield, Massachusetts, first Pride parade, Angela D. Mack knew she was a part of something special.

"This is monumental," said Mack, who served as the Grand Marshal for the parade held Saturday in downtown Springfield.

Organizers said they pitched the idea to the city two years ago but because of the pandemic it took this long to make it happen.

Several Pride parades in other cities did not take place this year. Northampton’s parade — historically one of the bigger ones in the state — was canceled. Organizers said they need to rebuild their team and regroup for next year. Boston’s Pride parade was not planned for this year after the organizing group dissolved.

Andres Villada, who works for the Holyoke Public Schools, came out from the Feeding Hills section of Agawam to celebrate in Springfield.

“With not having pride in Northampton or anywhere else, I think it was very important for us to come out and to actually show that there's a lot of us in the LGBTQ community that would want a space to celebrate," he said. "Seeing that Springfield is one of the only ones I came here to just celebrate being gay and support our community.”

Taurean Bethea, organizer of the Springfield Pride parade, said parade organizers were motivated by the difficulties that many in the LGBTQ+ community faced during COVID-19.

For many in the crowd, it was their first Pride parade ever - including many teenagers.

Aubri Drake said they were delighted to see young adults proudly waving their pride, trans, and nonbinary flags. Drake, who identifies as nonbinary transgender, was marching with colleagues from Baystate Health.

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“It feels meaningful to show them an example of what it can be to be an adult and to be a grown up and to make it through what they're going through right now and actually have like a complex, happy life that isn't focused necessarily on just their gender,” they said.

Drake does ultrarunning, which is a race longer than the traditional marathon, and long distance hiking. They want other trans and nonbinary people to know that these activities are not just reserved for cis-gender and heterosexual people.

“The 100 miler that I just did two weeks ago, there were at least four other queer or trans people running that I knew in the group and some more out than others. But it's different to not be the only one,” the said.

Drake’s friend, Toby Davis said he remembers going to Northampton's Pride parade when he was in high school in the 1990s.

"Back then there were Springfield youth groups that we would connect with, but they didn't have like a citywide event or anything. So it feels pretty exciting to me to just watch the expansion of queerness in the valley,” he said.

Mack, a Springfield native, took time to prepare an outfit that would be 'Grand Marshal worthy.'

Sporting a red and white striped hat inspired by Dr. Seuss "The Cat in the Hat," large rainbow colored butterflying wings and platform heels, Mack said the parade was a day for celebration and acceptance.

“To see more importantly, the youths come out in colors and be able to express themselves in ways that when I was young that I didn't dream was possible, ” she said. "It is a very important day. We are making history."

Organizers said they plan on holding the parade again next year.