by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
A record 70,000 people gathered in Brussels for Belgian Pride 2012 last weekend, an event co-organized by three federations (Flemish, Brussels, and Wallonian).
Taking place in the heart of the city, the parade curled through Brussels' most foot-trafficked streets to throngs of onlookers from all over Europe, and even American visitors from both coasts. Following a religious celebration and 'Gay Village' opening, Belgian Pride committee members assembled on the main stage and welcomed everyone in the languages of French, Flemish, and English. A moment of silence was observed for victims of homophobia and those in the community no longer with us. Then the festivities began.
Local drag celebrity La Diva performed a rousing version of Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way,' as rainbow-colored confetti showered the thousands of spirited supporters, who cheered loudly and danced under semi-cloudy skies. The parade soon got under way, featuring about a dozen kitschy-decorated flatbed trucks blasting pop and disco tunes. The sounds of Madonna and Donna Summer permeated the air, as did the aroma of salted pommes frites and, of course, sugary Belgian waffles.
Chez Maman, a popular drag lounge in Brussels known for its famous proprietor, Maman, utilized an open-air mini-trolley for the parade, the kind often seen at amusement parks, as she and her crew appeared in pirate and Captain Hook outfits. Other parade participants included leather-adorned men from The Boots bar in Antwerp, Alliage LGBT Association from Liege, the Tackling Homophobia organization wearing rugby gear, a Lesbian marching band, the staff of the Gay magazine Labels, who wore smart-looking shirts with the printed slogan 'Life is all about LABELS,' and several beautiful men and women in skimpy angel costumes.
The crowd leaned significantly Gay, yet a surprising number of straight couples, some with infants and young children, turned out to celebrate the 17th installment of Belgian Pride. Although there were plenty of sun breaks during the parade, the weather on Saturday afternoon, May 12, was chilly. But this did nothing to dampen the mood of the event, widely feted in the Gay district, near the Grand Place.
Pre- and post-Pride parties went on until mid-morning of the following day. The most congested section of Brussels after the parade was on Rue du Marche au Charbon, home to seven popular Gay bars - Le Belgica, Le Boys Boudoir, Le Baroque, Le Plattesteen, Le Fontainas, Dolores, and Tels Quels. The street was so packed with partygoers that you were literally shoulder-to-shoulder with the person next to you. Meanwhile, the streets in and around Rue du Marche au Charbon were cluttered with beer cans, cigarette butts, popped balloons, and lots of random debris. In Brussels, residents are permitted to carry alcoholic beverages outdoors in public year-round. Part of the nightlife scenery is young people standing outside bars with pints of beer, or even playing cards at the Grand Place with a bottle of wine.
'Pride 4 Every 1' was this year's theme for Belgian Pride, which precedes Baltic Pride (Riga, Latvia) and Dresden Gay Pride at the end of May, followed by Bologna Gay Pride and Athens Gay Pride in early June. The date for next year's Belgian Pride has already been announced: May 18, 2013. To plan way ahead on attending, go to www.visitbrussels.be for travel information. Brussels is about 11 hours from Seattle with easy connections in Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.
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