Prizm News / August 12, 2019 / By Megan Hageman
The 2019 Akron Pride Festival will feature a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
On August 24, thousands of LGBTQ+ Ohioans will flock to Akron to partake in the city’s third annual Equality March, followed by the fun-filled festival replete with local talent, food trucks, exhibitions, and an overwhelming representation of pride.
This year’s festivities will also feature an important display of history: 24 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Honoring the lives of those who lost their life to the devastation of AIDS, the quilt creates a stunning visual reminder of both what has been lost as well as the critical importance of finding a cure.
Prizm spoke with Akron Festival Vice Chair Cindy Christman to learn more about Akron Pride Festival’s unique timing and the decision to display the quilt.
What can we expect to see at the 3rd Akron Pride Festival?
We’re adding more vendors this year (over 200), and the time will be extended with the march to Hardesty Park starting at 10:00 instead of 11:00. We also anticipate more people this year. Last year we had 15,000 at the festival and 1,500 participated in the march. There were 200 volunteers last year and that number has grown every year.
This year the Kids’ Area is expanding and, for entertainment, we have Deborah Cox as a headliner and Steve Grand. And, of course, this year we will also have the panels from the AIDS quilt here. There will be 24 panels represented total: two larger sections and individual panels featured at the Summit County Courthouse.
What makes the festival distinctively ‘Akron’?
I would say the friendliness and openness at both the March and the Festival. People that live along the route are outside cheering and waving signs for equality and signs with rainbow colors. A number of young adults that come to the festival are at first a little inhibited, but after they see what is going on, they really start to relax. It’s very eye opening and there’s a strong sense of community.
What is the significance of holding the event in August and not during Pride Month?
There are two reasons behind it being held in August that go hand in hand. In August 2014, the International Gay Games were held here in Cuyahoga County and Summit County and Akron actually held a third of the events here in the city. Over 50 countries came to the area, and after that we continued the tradition of holding [the Festival] in August.
Also, during Pride Month in June, big cities hold festivals and events every weekend, so we would be competing with other major cities like Columbus, Dayton, and Cleveland. To get a large enough number of people, we decided it wasn’t wise to compete for a pride weekend.
How will the presence of the AIDS Quilt affect the festival?
The AIDS Quilt is a part of our history. Thousands contracted HIV and died and it took a long amount of time for the government to work on prevention and cures. It’s important to remember [that time] so we don’t go back and so we keep up research to find a cure.
[This display] is not just for the gay community. In other segments of society, HIV is growing. For the community at large, HIV rates are growing. I think younger people get the impression that it’s not a concern anymore. We celebrate Pride not just for fun, but also to be socially aware and bring this message to the event.
The 2019 Akron Pride Equality March and Festival will be held on Saturday, August 24 starting at 10am. Visit https://www.akronpridefestival.org for more info.
Megan Hageman is a Columbus, Ohio-based freelance writer working within the field of social media and content marketing. Her writing ranges from articles on non-profits to advice for working women and California weddings and she can be reached at email@example.com.