It has been 42 years since the first group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks got together in Crystal Park to celebrate what was called “Gay Pride.” By all accounts it was a small group, but determined to make a difference in their community as they had seen in Boston and New York a few years earlier.
Pride moved from Crystal Park to Institute Park and then to Water Street. At one point, Water Street was home to five businesses that were gay owner or had a large gay clientele. Water Street was set up as a Street Festival with tents, a rainbow balloon arch and a stage for entertainment. Pride was held on Water Street for 3 years until it was moved to the Worcester Common.
Since that time the gay clubs, bookstores and coffee shops have come and gone. The only remaining Gay owned club that also caters to the LGBTQ+ community is the MB Lounge. Many people attribute the decline of LGBTQ+ focused businesses to the internet since it is much easier to meet and communicate online. It’s a contributing factor, as is the “mainstreaming” of our community into the overall local society.
About eight years ago, people began to talk about moving Pride from the bar district back to a park. Eventually, it was decided that the best park would be in the center of the city! Our community had become more accepted and matured, so we needed a larger place to Celebrate our lives including the large segment of LGBTQ+ families. Once Pride moved to the Worcester Common, The Woo Church helped us create the best Kid’s Zone of any regional Pride!
The first year of the festival on the Worcester Common brought an estimated 3,000 attendees. Pride also revived the parade and drew 50 participants. Our annual growth has been double digit since then, moving from 5,000 to 10,000 to 15,000 and finally 20,000 in festival attendance in 2017. The parade has grown as well from that initial 50 to over 2,000 marching last year.
Worcester Pride continues to make history as it has now grown to Pride Week. In 2018, Worcester Pride Week will include: painting rainbow crosswalks downtown, a reception to honor “Love Your Labels” at the Worcester Historical Museum, the Pride Flag Raising in front of City Hall, Flag & Lights Reception at Buck’s on Green St, lighting the Burns Bridge over Lake Quinsigamond in rainbow colors, the Pride LGBTQIA+ Pageant, the annual Parade, the annual Festival, a Block Party at the MB Lounge, and a Youth Pride Dance at the YWCA.