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Sonoma County Pride draws hundreds to Guerneville

  • Joe "Kitten" Favalora, the winner of SoCo Talent Idol 2013, does a handstand during the Sonoma County Pride Parade in Guerneville, California on Sunday, June 2, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Guerneville's main drag came alive Sunday with a rollicking parade that featured the colors of the rainbow and hip-gyrating music that had hundreds of spectators dancing along.

The Russian River community marked the fifth consecutive year hosting Sonoma County's Pride celebration.

Many spectators on Sunday said Guerneville is a perfect fit for the annual event, which blends a modern message of tolerance for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, with the time-honored traditions of a hometown parade.

Sonoma County Pride Parade

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The fire engines that rolled down Main Street Sunday were decorated with strings of beads and a large rainbow-colored sign with the word, "Coexist."

Members of the Hubbub Club marching band delivered a rousing rendition of the gospel standard "Down by the Riverside," followed by scantily-clad men who tossed beach balls while rocking out to "Wipeout."

"It's a live and let live community," said Wayne Skala, a retired merchant who took in the spectacle with his partner, Bill Jackson.

The county's gay pride celebration was held in downtown Santa Rosa for 14 years, followed by a four-year hiatus. Its resurrection in Guerneville has tracked a period of watershed moments for gays and lesbians in America, notably around the issue of marriage.

Many said they were looking toward the future and a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that could legalize gay marriage in California, and beyond. Sunday's celebration included an afternoon "commitment ceremony" for couples that mostly was a symbolic gesture.

Mary Agneberg, who is chair of the Sonoma County Pride Committee, said she is looking forward to the day when gays and lesbians "won't have big, fake weddings anymore. I want a real wedding with real rights and obligations."

Agneberg, who goes by the name Sister Scarlet Billows, said Sunday's celebration cost $17,000 to produce and was paid for with donated money.


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