Perspectives on the Pride Move
(Crystal A. Proxmire, 2/20/2011)
Within a week of the announcement that Motor City Pride is moving from Downtown Ferndale to Hart Plaza in Detroit, Ferndalians are engaging in constructive dialogue about the move. Some hope for alternative events in Ferndale, some are calling for a boycott of the event, while others speak of ways to share the Pride throughout the area. Event organizers and City Leaders have come forward with their explanations of the change as they take in the reactions of those who are affected in the community.
The move out of Ferndale comes after two years of increasing fees from the City. Last year’s event application process included a breakdown of $14,733.52 which included things like $519 for a street sweeper, a $400 application fee, a $100 operational permit and others. Although ultimately organizers were able to negotiate the bill down to $11,951.94, by handling some of the event planning and clean up with the use of volunteers. “We’re always willing to help groups cut down expenses where they can,” said Michael Lary, City of Ferndale Event Director.
In 2009 the City approved Pride’s event permit, but changed their lot rental from $1 to $500. Although they voted (3-1 with Councilperson Mike Lennon voting no, and Councilperson Tomiko Gumbleton absent) to sponsor the event for $5,000. In 2010 The City declined being a sponsor.
Councilperson Mike Lennon said “I am sorry to see them go however it is really difficult to explain to the residents the money we lay out and keep on cutting services and staff at same time. We will welcome all events but we just can’t do it at taxpayer expense.”
Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said “I’m disappointed in the decision, but Ferndale is still an attractive place to host events of all kinds and I expect that to continue. Still, our financial crisis is real and taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to subsidize events at the same time we’re reducing staff, salaries and city services. Organizing events is a time-consuming labor of love and and I won’t second guess the Pride committee’s decision, but these projects have to make sense for both the organizers and the host community. If they decide in the future that Hart Plaza isn’t the right venue for them we’d be very happy to talk about having it come back.” Councilmembers Melanie Piana, Scott Galloway and Kate Baker did not return requests for comment.
Craig Covey, who resigned as Mayor in January to sit on the County Commission, was critical of the City’s lack of support. “The City of Ferndale did get carried away in charging too much for the costs associated with the festival. In raising fees to over $11,000 for the festival organizers, I believe we were a bit penny wise, and pound foolish. The event brings a million dollars to our downtown, and the city should not have nickeled and dimed Motor City Pride. That said, it should not be that difficult to raise an additional $10,000 for the festival in Ferndale. We do that easily each year with the Blues Festival, the Pub Crawl, and other events,” Covey said.
Covey also said he was disappointed that Equality Michigan, the organization that puts on the event each year, did not come to Ferndale and give City leaders a chance to change their minds. “The decision was made by the Motor City Pride Board, on its own, without any input from Ferndale. Since the group puts on the event, they get to decide where they want to hold it. Ferndale was pleased and proud to host the event, and should this group consider coming back to Ferndale, I would be happy to work with them and the city and the business owners to make it a great event.”
‘They want to return to the roots of where the pride events started the parades of 1986-1989 in downtown Detroit, which I started and ran. But they should remember that we never grew there beyond about 5,000 people. I believe that the event may very well shrink this year when they move to Hart plaza.”
Pride organizer Dave Wait, who lives in Whitmore Lake but says he thinks of Ferndale as a second home, responded to criticisms that the move was based on financial motivations. “This is not an economic decision,” Wait said. “The fees charged by Detroit are pretty equal, but it is nice that we get two days, plus more time to set up and take down. The main reason for the move is because we’ve been talking about doing it in Hart Plaza for years. Three weeks ago we found out that the date was open, and we felt we should take the opportunity.”
“I’m not blaming the City [Ferndale] because I work in education. I know how it is with money right now. The fees going up encouraged us to look at other options, but we were ready to try something new anyhow.” Wait is excited to have the event over two days and says they are working on plans for ways to make this year an even bigger and better event than before. “We loved being in Ferndale, but we really have outgrown the space.”
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius feels the City has done its part in welcoming the celebration. “We are proud that Downtown Ferndale has been a conduit for the growth and success of Motor City Pride, which is today very much recognized across the region as one of the premier celebrations of the GLBT community. We helped them accomplish that level of success and we hope they have successful 25th celebration… then come back home.”
She also explained the multiple perspectives involved in the issue of how much to charge for event fees. “The DDA does not control or charge fees but in defense of them, it would be irresponsible to not recover some of the additional costs associated with putting on large special events, especially in light of the current financial situation the City is facing. As a DDA, we want to continue to encourage the City to be fair, equitable and flexible in its fee structure because it is a competitive market, and keep in mind that events do more than just cost additional services—they increase awareness of our community in a positive manner, can help to increase sales for businesses either immediately or long-term (depending on the business), and create a greater sense of community pride and quality of life.”
Ferndale remains a great venue for events such as the Woodward Dream Cruise, The Sierra Club Green Cruise, The DIY Streetfair and Funky Ferndale Artfair, The Pub Crawl, The Blues Festival, Fido Does Ferndale and more.
“Motor City Pride may be moving, but the Southeast Michigan Dyke March is staying in Ferndale,” said Dyke March organizer Eriq Folkmore. “Hopefully enough people will attend to help keep the city’s gay friendly image rolling.”
Motor City Pride brings an estimated $1millon into the Ferndale economy each year. Michelle Lewis, who recently opened Painting with a Twist, said “I was hoping to be able to experience Pride as a new business in downtown Ferndale, so I think myself and many others will miss out by the move. However being unselfish I think this is great for the Pride and I can understand the move. The move is to celebrate their 25 year anniversary and will being it back to the roots of where it started which was downtown Detroit. I think that it is not a total loss to Ferndale. I kinda feel that the Pride will ultimately come back to Ferndale.”
Jacki Smith, DDA Board Member and owner of The Candle Wick Shop, said “I don’t like it, but I understand it. They want more room, a longer event and there are close hotels to stumble back to.”
Affirmations Interim Executive Director Kevin Howley was surprised by the news of the event’s relocation, but supportive. “While we certainly enjoy having Pride at our doorstep in Ferndale, the most important thing is that Pride is accessible and inclusive. Moving it to another location in the metro area may draw participants that don’t make the trip to Ferndale every year. We’ll definitely be hosting a table at the event and we look forward to helping any way we can. Hosting the Pride Family Picnic is still on our agenda, but we’ll have to give some thought to timing and location given this new information”
Community members have given mixed responses.
There those like Ferndale resident Curt Norrod who are boycotting the event completely. “We’ll be sittin” this one out by spending our time and money somewhere in our own community. Detroit has a long way to go before we support an event there again. Ferndale is where we choose to live because it is a vibrant, inclusive community where we feel safe and welcome. This is not because of any one festival, cruise or event or even because an occasional rainbow flag can be seen flying on some homes or businesses. It is however, because Ferndale is a community that includes many different people and events, supports them all and invites all who attend to feel welcome and safe while enjoying our city.” There is an online petition going on at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/keep-motor-city-pride-in-ferndale/ to convince organizers to keep it in Ferndale.
“I am very disappointed. Motor City Pride says they made the move to be able to expand, but there is plenty of room to expand in Ferndale,” said resident Melissa O’Keefe. “I will still go, and still donate because I believe in the cause, even though I disagree with how they chose to do it. But I think it’s a big shame.”
Detroit resident Pam Murray said “I think Ferndale should stop pouting about losing the parade and official festival and start planning after-parties and activities at Affirmations and local businesses to attract the weekend’s overflow crowd. Hopefully the move to a bigger space will be good for Detroit and a new opportunity for Ferndale to celebrate pride weekend in ways that suit the size of the city better.”
Ferndale resident Anne-Marie Yerks kept her comments positive. “The important thing is that the event is safe and accessible. If the organizers feel that Hart Plaza will bring more people together, then I support the move 100 percent,” she said.
For more information about Motor City Pride, go to http://motorcitypride.org/. For other LGBT stories check out https://oaklandcounty115.com/category/lgbt-news/.