A woman pokes out of a sun roof waves rainbows flags as she goes by floats at Bangor Pride's stationary parade on Saturday. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

Hundreds came to the Bangor Raceway on Saturday to celebrate LGBTQ Pride in Bangor Pride’s first parade since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stationary parade, the main event held by Bangor Pride this summer, featured several floats parked around the racetrack celebrating LGBTQ equality. Spectators drove around the floats across the race track before parking and watching a series of performers.

It was the first in-person Bangor Pride event since 2019. Last year’s Pride parade was held virtually to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands of Mainers have since been vaccinated.

While the 2021 Pride was different from past years, there was a triumphant, party-like feeling in the air. Many heralded the return to normalcy that allowed the event to happen, especially after Portland canceled its in-person Pride parade. The event was presented by Health Equity Alliance in collaboration with several local businesses and organizations on the Bangor Pride Planning Committee.

From left: Joshua Westcoat, the Teen Center Coordinator for the Bangor YMCA, blows bubbles at the YMCA’s float; Courtney Norwood, 19, of Bangor and Matt Decker, 20, of Bangor pose at Bangor Pride’s stationary parade on Saturday. Credit: David Marino Jr./BDN

Despite this year’s differences, Courtney Norwood said she was happy she could be around people who were all supportive and that a Pride parade could happen in Bangor at all. It’s especially important for her after coming out as transgender a year before.

“I like to show off my Pride for once,” Norwood said. “Because I was always very closeted.”

Alphonse Williams, 18, of Brooks, saw high stakes around such events. Many LGBTQ people face difficult situations at home and LGBTQ youth have a suicide rate that is disproportionally higher than the national average.

“Having an event where you can even be yourself for a day is really important to a lot of people,” Williams said. “It’s kind of a life or death thing sometimes.”

Participating organizations included Brewer-based Northern Light Health; the John Bapst Memorial High School chapter of the Yellow Tulip Project, which fights the stigma associated with mental illness; and the Penobscot County chapter of the Democratic Party.

Pride performers included George “Bodge” Loring, a guitarist who grew up on the Penobscot Nation Reservation; Darcy Cooke, a Bangor musician and activist; and Mama Martini, a Portland-based drag performer.

From left: Darcy Cooke performs at Bangor Pride; Alphonse Williams, 18, of Brooks, and Sarah Paul, 19, of Orland at Bangor Pride’s stationary parade on Saturday. Credit: David Marino Jr./BDN

Before the event, some commentators on Bangor Pride’s Facebook page wished the event could be similar to past events, in what has become a common community reaction to restricted events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers felt it was important to play it safe as Pride returned, including few walking or gathering areas and no booths or tables. The parade had been planned months in advance, with developers seeking to protect the community’s most at-risk people in a time when the future vaccination rate was unclear.

“We want to make sure to step back into it with health and safety as a priority,” Health Equity Alliance Communications Coordinator Jill Henderson said. “For people to have something to do as a community, but not to take any undue risks.”