It was glitter, knee socks and glam all the way as the Pride parade took over Cork city, bringing this year’s Pride Festival to a close with a splash of colour.
Hundreds of revellers transformed Grand Parade into a sea of colour as they dressed top to toe in glitter, donned flags as capes and defied the poor weather to make the parade Cork’s largest Pride ever.
The theme for this year’s parade was Stonewall: 50 Years Proud, marking 50 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York, the birth of the Pride movement. This year's festival welcomed young and old; babies wearing rainbow-coloured cowboy hats in their parents’ arms, friends carefully applying face paint, and others posing for selfies in their multicoloured tutus and angel wings.
Although many of those under 25 had migrated to Mitchelstown for the Indiependence Festival over the weekend, the streets were packed as the parade kicked off, led by a towering 10-ft float of Marsha P Johnson, an American activist who was at the centre of the New York gay liberation movement for 25 years.
Winding its way through the city, the parade set the streets alight with dance sequences and pom-poms punching the air.
The festival has a long history of inclusiveness, and this year proved no different. From trans rights groups and LINC to Cork Rebels and the Unitarian Church, each group was in fine voice, chanting and dancing with flags held aloft.
There was even room for political parties and major businesses, who also marched, a signifier of how far Ireland has come since the humble beginnings of Pride more than two decades ago.
The parade also featured a gay rights artefact, a section of an original Gilbert Baker rainbow flag. Gilbert Baker, who designed the rainbow flag, created a mile-long special version of the flag in 1994 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Stonewall which was carried by 5,000 people through New York.
With more and more attendees drawn to the event each year, local businesses were feeling the full effects, with flags draped over shop fronts and plenty of street wares being sold by grinning traders.
“It’s been mental all day,” a young man selling balloons said, wares tightly gripped in one hand, cash in the other. “It’ll be tonight by the time I get home.”
One attendee, Preet Kumar, travelled from Athlone to attend both Pride parades in Cork and Dublin.
“Where I’m from in Mauritius, they don’t accept the LGBT+ community. I have had death threats, and my family don’t accept me.
“It’s lovely, and it seems to get bigger every year,” remarked one on-duty Garda. “I’ve worked for the past few years and the amount of families you now get, as well as businesses, is huge.”
The festivities even caught the attention of unsuspecting tourists, one German couple on a day-long cruise stop in Cork marvelling at the explosion of colour as they took videos on their phones.
Under the trees festooned with criss-crossing flags, there was plenty on the entertainment front, with music from local legend Stevie G, live bands and performances from some of the country's sassiest drag queens keeping the party going into the afternoon.
True to its celebration of love, there were plenty of gleeful embraces, while others held hands in silence, basking in the celebration of something that even 10 years ago would barely have seemed possible.
Strangers hugged each other, saying “love whoever you are”, a simple act of acceptance which, judging by the hundreds packing Cork’s streets over the weekend, showed Pride still means more than ever.