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The Pride Parade Experience, pt2

Thu 2 Mar 2017 In: Community View at Wayback View at NDHA

You can read part one of our summing up of the Auckland Pride Parade 2017 here. Next up were the St John Ambulance folk with a big banner, lots of children, balloons and a flashy ambulance. And, if you ignore the blazing headlights of the Ambulance, the following float, from ZMFM was the first in the line-up to be lit up. The lighting wasn't quite needed because even at the end of the parade route the sun was only just starting to sink behind the Waitakeres. This year the ZM folk seemed to have got the message of what a glbti pride parade is all about. After last year's sad 'Auckland Nines dress-up' entry they pulled out more of the stops with much pinkness, DJ'd music and several drag divas. This year's Most Improved award goes to ZMFM. The NZ Prostitutes Collective ramped things up this year too, which is not to disparage their fine entry last year. More people, more out there and representing the many glbti people who through choice or circumstances such as being thrown out of home or considered unemployable in more main-stream industries, ply the world's oldest trade. And their float was the first in the parade to visibly encompass wider New Zealand with a Bluff/Cape Reinga-type signpost highlighting areas such as Christchurch's Manchester Street and Wellington's Vivian Street. Having a ball amongst the spectators was a group of friends who'd come to Ponsonby Road for a Hen's Party and unexpectedly discovered the biggest party of the year. The stalwart Greens marched by, soon to be followed by Rainbow Labour and a bit later on the National party with, in Parade as in life, its plus-one for the night, ACT's David (“The French love the Coq”) Seymour, another glbti-support stalwart. And speaking of stalwarts, Penny Hulse, until recently deputy mayor of Auckland was spotted marching amongst folk from Auckland Council, whose events and entertainment arm, ATEED, provides the financial backing which makes the parade possible. As a local body politician Hulse's commitment to the glbti communities is unwavering and inspirational. Marching with some of his staff, a larger contingent than last year, was Council Chief Executive Steven Town who told us that at the end of last year “we got rainbow ticks for some of our departments... We're making sure we have an inclusive workplace. This is one way of getting out there and showing we mean it." The rurally-rustic Raglan folk were back with a mud-spattered ute pulling a jetboat and references to sun (bronzed bodies), sand ('Kiwis against black sands mining') and surf (boards). There's something deliciously bogan and free-spirited about these folk. Hamilton Pride were also in evidence but rather overshadowed by the big flashy TVNZ entry with its dancers and ultra-ultra-big screen jumboTV showing the spectators live video of themselves. Louisa Wall was always going to be front and centre of the Labour group. "I'm proud to be an Aucklander," she said. "It's about having fun, excitement and families. It's a wonderful celebration." Talking about young people and the importance of the parade for them she said "It's about learning about who they are... that's why events like this are so important. This is where they find their mentors." It was getting darker now but even without lighting the amount of gender-bending mixing and matching on the Public Service Association float was impressive. Behind them the EquAsian group reminded everyone that there is more to glbti ethnic diversity than the pakeha/palangi and maori/polynesian binary thingy. China belatedly removed being non-heterosexual from its list of mental afflictions in 2001 but hasn't done much since to officially support equality for its glbti citizens so it was good to see EquAsian (literally) carrying the flag for China's glbti folk. Our 'Me, Me, Me, Us, Us Us!' award goes to the Zumba float, whose participants were so determined to promote their wares to the spectators that they didn't seem to notice or care that the parade ahead of them had moved a long block or more on while they went through their routines. And the flip-side to that was the log-jam of floats building up behind them. Parade courtesy expectations were breached rather badly there Miss Zumba! The University of Auckland was an entry crowded with diversity and balloons and good cheer. The University's Queer Rights Officer, Isabel Gledhill was marching for the first time, wanting to show that she is someone that is there to support students. "This is really exciting.... The queer community is really important at Auckland Uni, but isn't always that visible so this is a fun way to get together and celebrate." Tucked in between the UofA and the following noisy Westpac entry was a more soberly-themed group representing The Lowdown, a website helping young New Zealanders with depression and anxiety issues. GLBTI youth are way too highly represented in psychological health issues including suicide so it was good to see these folk being so up-front. If ever there was a need for a Zumba-like gap in the parade, to allow a moment for reflection, this was it. But it didn't happen, instead we got the vivacious and bouncy Westpac folk who won our Loud Piercing Massed Whistles award. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, out and about again after her battle with cancer, was the centrepiece of the National entry and wins our Pink Grit award for marching the entire almost 2km length of Ponsonby Road. It was a smaller than usual Marching Team (previously known as the Marching Boys but now more diverse in its make-up) that came along next, looking hot but skewed away from your actual marching and more towards choreography. Body Positive, acknowledging their Positive Women sisters, pulled out all the stops this year with a fantasy in red... red ribbons, red frocks, red wings, red garlands. This was the most out-there, in your face, 'we're here, we're HIV-positive, no need to freak out about it' HIV-positive people's parade presence in the history of the epidemic in NZ and that was wonderfully, redly, refreshing. With the sun setting OutLine made a bright and colourful splash with their illuminated body balls, the most creative use of illumination in the parade, thereby winning our Best Lighting award. Countdown was a tad inspiring for their first-ever Auckland Pride Parade entry, surely someone at Grey Lynn Countdown knew how to sprinkle the rainbow fairy dust of creativity over their food delivery van? Unitec, the BNZ, and AUT jiggled and bobbed past, followed by a pairing that we hope signals a future trend for the parade, the pairing of corporate juggernaut Fletcher Building with always cash-strapped Rainbow Youth. To see a corporate entry actually linked into a glbti organisation, and it appears for more than the usual 'look at us we're fabulous for one night!' corporate leverage exercise was refreshing. To Fletcher Building goes our Going Beyond The Rainbow Tick award. Maori TV must have some kind of impressive gym out the back of the studios, judging by the amount of oiled-up preening brown muscle preceding their truck. Sorry, no pics due to.... well, how the hell did that happen! Was that Adele??? No, but it was damned close as Felicity Froccacino channeled the Brit diva while promoting the Proud after-parade party. Then a collection of church groups including the Pitt St Methodist church which in glbti terms lives somewhat in the shadow of St Matts and the Ponsonby Baptist inclusive church. Who knew that Baptists could be anything but homo-averse! We're hoping they didn't have to face a 'please explain' memo from head office on Monday morning. Big sparkly white letters spelling out Ending HIV signalled the NZ AIDS Foundation's entry which was followed in a wash of silver unicorns, rainbows, party lights and decorated party hats as The Air New Zealand, Spark and Vector floats brought up the rear. Nice to see the corporates there but it was hard to avoid wishing that something fabulously gay, rather than massively corporate, was the final take-away image of the glbti Auckland Pride Parade. Then, unintentionally, a little bit of glbti magic happened for those who turned their heads from the back-ends of the receding corporates and looked into the crowd of ordinary, non-parade folk surging down the road behind the final official parade marshals. Gays, lesbians, trans folks, queers, couples, groups, 'family' of all hues, young queers and old poofs and dykes. Here was glbti reality for most New Zealanders. Ordinary glbti people with a smidge of pink or lavender here, a dash of rainbow glitter there, girls holding hands, boys arm in arm, a scattering of beaming mums and dads and over-excited friends. The Auckland Pride Parade 2017 was a fabulous, flashy, vivid, in your face spectacle but it was given true meaning and humanity by that surging mass of smiling glbti faces bringing up the rear. If the Pride Parade is the public face of the glbti communities, these folk are our heart. Daily News staff - 2nd March 2017

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 2nd March 2017 - 11:10am

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