With a vote on gay marriage looming in November, participants in Saturday’s Southern Maine Pride Parade & Festival are sure to be extra fired up and energized. The political message of equal marriage will be everywhere, weaving its way from the floats and the speakers to the overall theme.

“The theme changes every year, and this year it’s ‘The Power of Pride,’ ” said entertainment coordinator Sid Tripp. “Right now, this country is so polarized with gay marriage, we felt that the power of having pride is a very powerful position. So we wanted to show our strength going into this pride season and into this election season to really push for gay marriage in Maine.”

Now in its 26th year, the always colorful Portland event starts with the signature parade. The parade begins at Monument Square at 12:30 p.m. and winds its way down to Deering Oaks Park, where music and entertainment will take place all afternoon.

More than 40 groups and organizations plan to march in the parade. The procession will be led by Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck, who will serve as grand marshals.

Last year, organizers moved the location of the festival within the park. Because the move proved successful, the new location will be used again this year, which means the festivities will line the park near Deering and Park avenues. The stage will be set up by the duck pond.

“It makes for a really nice setting, and it doesn’t put so much pressure on the farmers market” that takes place in the park in the morning, Tripp said.

Comedian Khris Francis will serve as master of ceremonies for the festival and perform as the closing act.

“He’s a crowd favorite,” Tripp said. “We’re very lucky to have him. He’s very funny, he’s very witty. The audience loves him. He’s ruffled some feathers in the past with some of his comments, but generally speaking, comedians are people who keep us real.”

Mixing impersonation and songs with his jokes, Francis has graced stages across the country, and is a regular at clubs in Ogunquit.

“I’m an adult comedian,” Francis said. “I really have to watch my language. If I say something a little bit racy, I say it in a way a child couldn’t understand. I used to be a schoolteacher, and I don’t like kids to hear things that aren’t age-appropriate.”

This serves as a good reminder that the festival does attract all sorts of people.

“We have families that come, but we also have people who dress provocatively,” Tripp said. He recommends that parents be mindful that their children could see scantily clad people and hear sexual innuendos at the event.

Performers include Naya’s Trace Belly Dancers, the burlesque group Red Hot & Lady Like and the cast from the Maine State Music Theater, which will perform excerpts from “Legally Blonde” and “A Chorus Line.” Drag queens Miss Veronika, Miss Samantha and Miss Joann will all take a turn on the stage.

Live music will come from indie Appalachian duo Tina & Her Pony, singer/songwriter Lauren Bateman and singer/songwriters MeCa.

Along with the entertainment, Tripp said the park will be filled with more than 20 food vendors and a number of organizations handing out information and organizing children’s activities.

Those who plan to attend should bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on. Picnics are welcome, but alcohol and smoking are not allowed in the park. There is no charge to attend the festival.

Noting that gay people still face prejudice, discrimination and bigotry in addition to being denied the right to marry, Francis quipped, “We’re not going away. Heterosexuals keep having sex and making gay children.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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