Deering Oaks was a sea of rainbow flags, music and laughter as Portland celebrated its annual pride festival and parade Saturday afternoon.

Thousands of families, couples and company groups marched through downtown Portland, congregating in the park for food trucks, music, vendors and a beer tent. Pride Portland! organizers said up to 14,000 people were expected to come, the largest turnout for the event in recent memory.

“I’ve never seen so many people smiling and happy,” said Martha Warren, 56, of Scarborough, who came to the festival with her 19-year-old niece Emerson Warren.

This was Warren’s first Pride Portland! but she went to a Boston pride event last week and had such a good time she wanted to come see the Portland event too.

“It was so, so cool,” she said. “There wasn’t a frown to be seen.”

The weather likely encouraged people to turn out and elevated spirits. Brilliant sunshine, highs in the mid-70s and a cooling breeze offered perfect conditions for an outdoor festival.


Aside from the nice weather, crowds were drawn to the festival’s theme this year – “Resist. Remember. Rejoice.” – to honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of confrontations between the LGBTQ+ community and New York City police considered a major catalyst of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S.

“This is a big, big year for us,” said festival chair Rebecca Tanous. Pride events across the country have emphasized the Stonewall anniversary and it likely brought out people who might have otherwise stayed home, Tanous said.

Current politics and threats against LGBTQ+ rights have drawn more activism within the community and support from people outside it, Tanous added.

“With all the crazy stuff that is happening with the government, I think people realize they need to be allies right now,” she said.

The 10-day festival wraps up Sunday with a tea dance party on Peaks Island.

Saturday’s crowds spilled across much of the southern edge of Deering Oaks. Hungry festival-goers formed long lines for food trucks and packed the Shipyard Brewing Co. beer garden. Families and couples spread out on blankets to watch entertainers on the main stage or relax on the edge of Deering Oaks Pond.

Jake Voishnis, from Saco, said this was the second time he’d come to Portland Pride and this time it was noticeably bigger, louder and more crowded. He agreed that changing attitudes toward LGBTQ+ rights boosted participation.

“I think a lot more people are more open to be supportive,” Voishnis said.

“Being gay isn’t a big deal anymore and people want to celebrate it.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: