For years the annual Southern Maine Pride celebration has been a rallying point for people protesting discrimination and trying to change laws and societal attitudes. But this year’s Pride celebration will likely be a little less about protest and more about celebration, due to the passage of Maine’s law allowing same-sex marriage late last year.

The official theme of this year’s Southern Maine Pride Festival and Parade on Saturday is, appropriately enough, “Marry ME.”

As in marry Maine.

So besides the annual parade through downtown Portland from Monument Square to Deering Oaks, and lots of entertainment in Deering Oaks, this year’s festival will also feature a mass wedding ceremony and a wedding expo.

“For almost 30 years, this has been a forum for social change, so we just felt that now that Maine has gay marriage we should celebrate that,” said Sid Tripp, one of the event’s organizers.

Tripp said 10 couples had already signed up for the mass wedding ceremony, and that anyone else can sign up to get married – gay or straight – at the festival.

They just have to have all their paperwork in order, and the specific documentation is listed on the Southern Maine Pride website –

Also at the festival will be a wedding expo tent, organized in part by the website, which Tripp’s marketing firm launched. The expo will include wedding vendors who are “gay friendly” said Tripp. So people can browse information about function halls or flowers or whatever else might be needed for wedded bliss.

The day starts off Saturday with a parade that will leave Monument Square at noon. From there the parade goes west on Congress Street, down High Street, and then onto Park Avenue toward Deering Oaks. The parade will include some 40 entries – with a total of 200 to 300 people – on colorful floats or cars, or marching in groups.

The costumes are sure to be colorful and fun, and there are always lots of signs and banners promoting tolerance.

The title of “Grand Marshal” this year will be given to both Michael Brennan, Portland’s mayor, and Michael Sauschuck, the city’s police chief.

When the parade ends at Deering Oaks, the festival begins. The festival grounds will include a food court, a vendor area, a “kid zone” of children’s activities, and a stage for performers.

The entertainment includes comedian Khris Francis as master of ceremonies, as well as Portland-area singer-songwriter Amy Allen, Portland “electronic soul” trio The Other Bones, and Boston-based singer-songwriter Lauren Bateman.

Belly dancers and drag performers will also be part of the entertainment. So if you’re looking for a place to get married, the Pride festival will provide the officiant, the guests, the park setting, and the entertainment. “Anybody who wants to get married, gay or straight, can,” said Tripp. “Even people looking to renew vows.”

 Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]   Twitter: RayRouthier

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