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One Proud Summer: Gay Pride Festivals in North America

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Following unprecedented gains in LGBT rights in the past year, look for gay pride events to be especially joyous this year—and hopeful, as the community awaits the coming U.S. Supreme Court decision on nationwide rights to marriage. To help guide your pride travel plans, new TPG Contributor Drew Limsky shares his picks for the best gay pride festivals you’ll find in North America this summer.

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New York City Pride. It all started here at Manhattan’s Stonewall in 1969 (though the first pride parade was the following year), and the Big Apple’s pride celebration is now such a fixture that locals know exactly what “last Sunday in June” means. NYC Pride kicks off with Family Night on June 23, but June 28 is the main event, boasting one of the world’s largest LGBT pride marches; last year, a whopping 325 groups participated. The two main post-march events are PrideFest, a huge street fair held on Hudson Street that actually begins while the march is ongoing; and the famous Dance on the Pier, which typically draws surprise superstars to the stage (e.g., Cyndi Lauper, Cher, etc.).

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Pride Toronto. June 28 also marks the date of Pride Toronto’s enormous parade, which is one of the world’s best attended, drawing more than one million revelers. Given the strides across the globe in the fight for gay marriage, the choice of the 2015 parade’s grand marshal confers special meaning and gravitas: Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes officiated the first legal marriage of a gay or lesbian couple ever, in 2001, and will be leading the way. Pride Toronto commences more than a week before the parade, on June 19, kicking off ten days of block parties, marches and cultural programming. Add in all the affiliate events, and you can be an out and proud tourist for the entire month of June.

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Puerto Vallarta Pride. Reflecting the LGBT-friendliness of this Mexican resort town on the Pacific Coast, for the third year in a row Vallarta Pride will explode with events both political and hedonistic. The week kicks off on May 17 with the International March Against Homophobia and ends with a sexy Closing Party (May 24) at Mantamar Beach Club Bar & Grill. In between, look for event sponsor (and menswear designer) Andrew Christian to host the Welcome Party at Pinnacle (May 21), and the Wet & Wild Gay Cruise and a Fashion Show (both May 22).

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San Francisco Pride. One year after the 1969 Stonewall riots, the first pride march was held in the City by the Bay (as well as in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles). Focusing on the weekend of June 27, San Francisco Pride bills itself as the largest LGBT gathering in the nation, boasting more than 200 parade contingents, 300 exhibitors, and more than 20 stages and venues. The Main Stage, located in Civic Center Plaza next to City Hall, plays host to the biggest parties, and in the past has drawn such performers as Lady Gaga, Sandra Bernhard and the Backstreet Boys.

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Austin Pride. The cool, musical city raised a few eyebrows when it showed up in third place in the just-released poll of gayest cities (5.3% of Austin’s population is gay, just behind the gay population shares in San Francisco and Portland)—so get ready for a raucous display of pride in the gayest city in the South! Pride happens later here, August 22 to 30, with the festival and parade rocking the Texas town August 29. Demonstrating the clout of Austin Pride, its high-octane sponsors include Facebook, Acura, Wells Fargo, American Express and Orbitz. Highlights include the 3rd annual Werk Fashion Show, which will feature designs from Project Runway, including pieces from Austin’s local hero Daniel Esquivel.

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Seattle Pride. This crunchy and quirky city has named Martha Manning and Shelley Brothers, owners of the Capitol Hill lesbian bar Wildrose, along with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan, as grand marshals of the city’s 41st annual Pride Parade on June 28. Come 9 am on parade day, Parlor Live will be serving up its famous Belgian waffles, Mary’s Chicken & Pea Salad, and fluffy scrambled eggs with Tillamook cheddar at their annual Pride Brunch. Those who prefer to drink their morning meal will head over to any one of three beer gardens—located at 4th Avenue at Pine Street (Westlake Park), Bell Street, and Denny Way. Meanwhile, Mama Tits busts out for the 10 am Seattle Pride Parade Pre-Show at Westlake Park.

Will you be heading to any of these gay pride festivals this summer—or any others?