Baltimore's King of Pride 2005 wears a new outfit to the festival each year, and he decided on the 2017 Mr. Gay America presentation costume because it was "fresh and relevant, but also classic."
"Be who you are authentically," Cruz said afterward. "When you find yourself, you are living your true pride."
This year's Pride celebrations marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a major catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States that followed a police raid on a gay nightclub in New York's Greenwich Village.
The relaxed family picnics in Baltimore's muggy Sunday heat bore hardly any semblance to the violent 1969 uprising in New York, but signs of the LGBTQ community's progress over the last half-century were everywhere.
Kaiser Permanente, T-Mobile, SunTrust Bank, Giant grocery stores, Towson University and Johns Hopkins were among the corporations and institutions offering games, rainbow-colored giveaways and other Pride-themed promotions.
In addition to the festival's first transgender music performers, this year added a Vogue Ball — a dance contest in which competitors strike a series of poses — with prizes for the winners, said Pride Coordinator LaKesha Davis, who volunteers with the Pride Center of Maryland.
Davis, a Maryland probation agent who lives in Parkville, said she is proud of how far the LGBTQ community has come, but it still has a way to go.
"There are still too many laws and rules about who one can love," she said.
Miss Kelli, who is from West Baltimore, timed the release of her new album, "Transcendent," to coincide with this year's Pride and the Stonewall Riots anniversary. It features the song "Human," a reminder that LGBTQ people are "flesh, we're blood, we're life, we're love — we're human," she said.
The 26-year-old Charles Village woman is an outreach worker for the Power Project at Chase Brexton Health Services, which offered rapid HIV testing and distributed sexual-health related materials and other information.
The 2019 Pride Festival takes place at Druid Hill Park. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
"It's important to keep people safe, represent acceptance and promote togetherness," she said. "We're all in this together."