March to the Beat of a Different Drum
Albuquerque’s Gay Pride Parade has gone from a picnic in the park to the third largest parade in New Mexico
Albuquerque Pride Business Representative Midnyte remembers marching in Albuquerque’s first Gay Pride Parade 30 years ago. Back then, the parade was more of a march that ended at Morningside Park with a small picnic shared between a couple dozen participants.
“I just remember seeing a bunch of guys walking on the sidewalk holding signs, so I joined them,” says Midnyte. “It wasn’t at all an organized thing; it was just a bunch of people coming together to celebrate the Stonewall Riots.” These riots took place in June of 1969, spurred by patrons of the Stonewall Bar in Greenwich Village who had become fed up with the frequent police raids of the gay bar. The riots lasted for three days.
Since 1976, the Albuquerque Gay Pride Parade, which is now organized by the nonprofit organization Albuquerque Pride, has gone from around 25 participants to an expected 10,000 for this weekend’s event. “It’s pretty amazing to think about how much [the parade] has grown over the years,” says Gay Pride Co-president, P.J. Sedillo. “Along with the increase in participants, our budget has grown from about $1,500 in 1993 when I first started working with Albuquerque Pride to $90,000 for this year’s parade.” Sedillo remembers being able to put all of 1993’s expenses on his credit card, which, he says, he’s happy he can’t do now.
Over the years, the parade has produced a wealth of both good and bad memories that have helped make the event what it is today. Sedillo remembers marching in the parade in 1989 and hiding behind buildings to avoid the lenses of local news cameras that were covering the event. “I was scared because I was a school teacher and I wasn’t proud of being gay like I should have been,” Sedillo recalls. “Now my goal is to be ‘out’ as much as I can. I’m gay, I’m a school teacher and that’s the way it is.”
Pat Baillie, who is Albuquerque Pride’s other co-president, says one of her fondest memories of the parade came last year. “While we were walking in the parade, a homeless woman walked up to a group of us and asked what we were celebrating,” Baillie says. “When we told her what we were doing, she pulled out a dollar from her pocket and said she wanted to contribute and make sure this event could continue to happen. That could have been her last dollar and she was still willing to help us out. That was really special.”
Overall, Midnyte, Sedillo and Baillie all feel the parade has continued to improve every year. In addition to the increasing numbers of participants and the ever-increasing budgets, there are other, more subtle causes for celebration. All three Albuquerque Pride members note that the parade is increasingly able to cater to gay youths. “It used to be that, after the parade, the kids who were under 21 had nowhere to go because they couldn’t go to the bars,” Sedillo explains. To rectify this situation, Albuquerque Pride organized a 21-and-under post-parade dance which was attended by over 100 Albuquerque youths last year. This year’s dance will be held at the Ford Pavilion, located at Expo New Mexico, across from the Albuquerque Downs Racetrack.
Another noteworthy improvement is the increasing support of high-profile politicians. “Politicians know this is a great voting block for them,” Midnyte says. “If they make their presence felt, they know they’ll have a better chance at the polls.”
The Gay Pride Parade will continue to be a place where people from all walks of life can come together to celebrate differences and embrace the challenges that lay ahead. It’s one aspect of the parade that has remained unchanged over the last 30 years.
Albuquerque Pride now has its own office located at 2610 San Mateo NE, Suite C. There, visitors can find archived items such as photos, flyers and T-shirts from past Albuquerque Pride Parades. Check out Albuquerque Pride online at abqpride.com.