The Greenville, S.C., resident said he tries to come every year.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” he said.
He said he spends the weekend in Augusta and looks forward to seeing friends at the festival.
“It’s a good way to bring the community together,” he said.
Saturday’s events began with a parade down Broad Street. Members of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Augusta marched carrying signs that read “Don’t hate celebrate” and “Gay rights are civil rights.”
A throng of motorcyclists rode with rainbow flags adorning their bikes. Several dance groups entertained the crowds, while Georgia Regents University buses, Richmond County fire trucks and a WBBQ van lent their support to the event.
After the parade, guests filed into Augusta Common, where the festival continued with vendors, dancers, and live music.
The Rev. Lisa Heilig, the interim pastor for the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer, offered a few words of encouragement before Augusta band Mama Says took the stage.
“We are going to celebrate that we are part of the diversity of creation just like we are made,” Heilig said. “We’re going to commemorate, we’re going to celebrate, but we’re also going to get motivated because, my friends, we know that none of us is free until all of us are free.”
The freedom to be herself is what Tarah Dillingham values most about the annual event. She walked through the festival sipping a daiquiri and holding hands with her girlfriend, Lisa Harshman.
“This is the only time that we can walk around and do the same things that other people do and not get looked at funny,” she said. “I can’t walk down the street with her and hold her hand if it’s not this.”
Harshman said she only came to the festival because Dillingham wanted to go. While she supports gay rights, being open about it makes her feel like a target. She said she remained very conscious about the world outside of the boundaries of Augusta Common.
“The reality is, we’re in Augusta. We’re in the South. Redneckville,” Harshman said. “We don’t have a support group down here..”