11 Feb 2019

'I felt the solidarity': Thousands turn out for Auckland's Pride events

10:26 am on 11 February 2019

A crowd of thousands turned out for the 20th annual Auckland Big Gay Out yesterday.

Festival-goers enjoying music from the main stage at the Big Gay Out.

Festival-goers enjoying music from the main stage at the Big Gay Out. Photo: RNZ / Katie Doyle

The LGBTQI community were out in full force at Pt Chevalier's Coyle Park, many covered head to toe in rainbow glitter.

Almost 15,000 people crowded the park, and despite the sun rays streaming down they danced all day.

"It's such a good vibe, everyone's so accepting," said festival-goer McKay Carroll.

They said the day is a celebration of the community and its achievements.

Echoing that sentiment was advocate Huhana Hickey who said the event is an important way to connect with her community, friends and family.

It's an event that's been running since 1999 and one of the main stage hosts, drag queen Ms Ribena, said she remembers that very first one.

"I've been doing the Big Gay Out for 20 years now, I started when there was only 2000 people there and now there's 15,000 plus that have attended today."

On Saturday members of the community walked and cheered their way up Auckland's main street for the Pride march.

After a tumultuous few months during which the Pride board survived a vote of no confidence, board chair Cissy Rock said the march was a show of solidarity.

She said she's "ecstatic" with how it turned out.

"It's very special. This is about us collectively standing together. This is what solidarity looks like."

Auckland Pride march.

Auckland Pride march. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

Ms Rock told Morning Report the official count showed 3500 people were marching on Saturday.

"We were doing a march that people were participating in rather than a parade where people were watching."

She said there needs to be a whole diversity of events for a diverse community.

"We needed something different to include the voices that hadn't been included before.

"In particular there was a huge transgender, non-binary, gender minority turn out," she said.

A large group of Chinese people also attended, a community Ms Rock said she hadn't seen attend in such numbers before.

Gigi Pikinga, who was walking in the march, said it felt completely different from past years' parades, and they were more proud than ever to be involved.

"What I appreciated about this year's Pride was that it was the people standing with the people. There were no big corporate factors coming into play, dictating their version of what Pride should be," they said.

"It feels most authentic; back to its grassroots."

Rex, left, Lala Loopsie, Babyfreekk, Claytorus, Ranikumari, Faux Femm.

Rex, left, Lala Loopsie, Babyfreekk, Claytorus, Ranikumari, Faux Femm. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

Harry Di Somma said the march was a strong showing of unity from the LGBTQI community.

"I think you really feel like you're part of the community when you do this.

"I think a lot of people don't realise that we are a community, and when we come together like this and everybody can see, we experience pride together," Mr Di Somma said.

"Pride is this - it's together."

The Pride Board will now go back to the membership for feedback and to plan for the future.

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