Thousands of gay men and lesbians took their Pride Festival to Towson State University yesterday, marking a change in venue for the annual event from its traditional city location in Wyman Park.
The festival was one of the last activities in the Pride 95 weekend, sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore. It followed Saturday's downtown parade and block party and a walk to raise money for AIDS treatment yesterday morning.
Organizers expected the Towson festival to draw 10,000 people, and at one point in the afternoon they estimated that as many as 7,000 were there. In any event, the festival outgrew the Wyman dell and Towson State offered an affordable alternative, Pride 95 co-chairwoman Mary Newman said.
"I'm extremely pleased with the turnout," Ms. Newman said. "We thought that this location, coming out into the county, would give us an opportunity to do an outreach into the county."
Tina Woods, 43, was taking the change in stride.
"I liked the atmosphere of the dell, but this is very spacious," said Ms. Woods, a physical therapist and volunteer with the Maryland Lesbian and Gay Law Association. "We'll get used to it."
For her and many others, the people were more important than the place.
Rose, a bus operator from Bladensburg in Prince George's County, was attending her first gay-pride event, though she said she has been "out" much of her life.
"I thought it might be time for me to come out and see what's happening," she said, waiting in line for an Italian sausage sandwich with green peppers and onions. "The purpose is to get a group of gay people together just to see each other."
Rose and some other festivalgoers would not give their full names for fear of discrimination at work or at home, they said.
Mark, 25, of Annapolis was also attending his first gay-pride event.
"I haven't been 'out' that long," he said, sitting under a picnic tent with friends. "It's really nice. I feel safe being out in public, where the environment is accepting and positive."
Among the entertainers was Jean Culver, 33, a comedian whose routine was peppered with ridicule of heterosexuals and feminine products.
Though she's been performing in comedy clubs and bars for about 10 years, this was her first performance at Baltimore's Pride Festival.
"Doing the festival was a little nerve-racking," she said. "I was nervous, because it's like performing in front of your family."
Ms. Culver, bands and female impersonators performed throughout the day on two stages at opposite ends of the field in front of the University Union.
Gay and Lesbian Teachers of Maryland, Gay Friends of Harford County and Families with Pride were among the 80 or so organizations and vendors whose tables filled the field between the stages.