NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk’s Town Point Park hosted tens of thousands of people in a celebration of inclusion and equality Saturday as Pridefest returned for the first time in three years.
News 3's Anthony Sabella spoke to the people behind the festival, who say it’s about giving our area’s LGBTQ population the chance to safely celebrate who they are.
In years past, Hampton Roads Pride has seen as many as 40,000 people come to Pridefest. This year's event kicked off with a bang, with the only Pride Boat Parade in the country making its way down Norfolk's waterfront beginning at noon.
The event's big return was certainly welcomed by those who came out Saturday, but underneath it all was concern about what the future holds.
The one-day event comes one day before the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.
But it’s what happened the day before — this year — that’s on Hampton Roads Pride President Rudy Almandor’s mind — the striking down of Roe v. Wade, ending federal abortion rights.
In a concurring opinion to Friday's ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicated he wanted to do the same with LGBT rights, including marriage.
"We may be the next community that they say, ‘Now you can’t get married,’ so it’s more reason for us to be united," Almandor said.
That unity was on display Saturday — both with the LGBT community and local and state law enforcement.
Formerly with the Norfolk Sheriff's Office, Fawn Faulks of Hampton Roads Pride works with LGBT liaisons within different area departments.
She and Almandor say the close relationship with local police helps keep events like this safe and secure.
“They just pitch in and help out wherever they can, on a friendly note. Not on an 'always law enforcement' note. They only enforce law when it’s needed to, but when it comes to the safety of the community they are totally on board, 150 percent," Faulks said.
Which ensures Pridefest’s return can be a joyful one for all ages, three years in the making.
"It’s not effortless but we do it because we want to make sure the community gets what we deserve and has an environment that is safe, inclusive and accepting," Almandor said.
And the party this weekend doesn’t stop here. Sunday, it moves 18 miles to the east to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Pride at the Beach will be at 24th Street Park starting at 2 p.m.