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Pride Parade celebrates 'good vibe' of community support

Skies threatened all morning, but the sun came out, and with it, rainbows galore on Elmwood Avenue Sunday afternoon.

And that was the point of Pride Week events, from the flag raising on Tuesday to the Gay 5K on Thursday and the Dyke March on Saturday to Sunday's Pride Parade on Elmwood, which was followed by the Pride Festival at Canalside, which drew a crowd estimated at 10,000 people.

[Gallery: Pride Parade]

After facing harassment, threats, discrimination and worse, the LGBTQ community has found support in its numbers and from the community at large. The dome of Buffalo City Hall was illuminated in rainbow colors Sunday, and the M&T Bank building lights were also rainbow for the weekend.

"I think it's the one time a year, the one place you don't have to worry about people," Derek Baker said of Pride Week events.

Gene Spence, left, and Derek Baker, both of Buffalo, at Buffalo's Pride Parade. (Barbara O'Brien/Buffalo News)

Other places, other times, public displays of affection by same sex couples could prompt public displays of aggression by some.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Smiles at Pride Festival 2017 at Canalside]

"It's just a reminder that ... you don't have to worry about those people," said Baker, who was waiting for the parade to start with his partner, Gene Spence, and other friends.

"One place of darkness can't hold you back," Spence said. "That's what they're looking for."

Shelonda Chestnut and Brianna Fugate did not let worries over security keep them from attending Pride Week activities. They've been together 11 years, and have been going to the parade for about three years.

Shelonda Chestnut, left, and Brianna Fugate, both of Buffalo, with Fugate's dog, Coco, at the Pride Parade. (Barbara O'Brien/Buffalo News)

"That was one of our concerns at first," Fugate said, but she said there was nothing to worry about. "It was such a nice vibe."

They walked down Elmwood with Fugate's dog, Coco, resplendent with a rainbow tail and ears, thanks to chalk.

Dozens of teenagers, representing Gay-Straight Alliance groups from at least two dozen area high schools, led off the parade to cheers along the two-mile route. Many were cheering for Byshop Elliott, the McKinley High School junior whose recent legal battle paved the way for the official recognition of his school's first-ever Gay-Straight Alliance after-school club.

T-shirts that said, "Celebrate Diversity," and shouts of "Happy Pride" came from parade participants and watchers, while bubbles poured from machines in the parade and marchers danced and shimmied while throwing candy, beaded necklaces and even dog biscuits.

Four-year-old Braydon Wasielewski of West Seneca was there for the extras.

"He comes for the candy and beads," Mike Wasielewski said of his son.

"I like tootsie rolls," Brayden said.

The West Seneca family used to live in the neighborhood before Brayden was born.

Across the street, Doris Hill, sitting in a canvas chair, said she never misses a Pride Parade.

"I like to see the gay community celebrate themselves," she said. "I like the music,  I like to see non-gay groups support them."

And the Elmwood Village resident added, "I think it's a nice way to start the summer."

Weeklong Pride festival celebrates a growing community

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