It may be of some note, historically, that this weekend a community that city leaders kept at a distance have the unanimous backing of City Hall as it prepares to host its annual festival in an area of town that also was ignored just a decade ago.
Such is the case as the city's gay and lesbian community is set to celebrate its annual OKC Pride festival Saturday along downtown's Film Row.
A decade ago, the Oklahoma City Council voted 6-3 for an ordinance that attempted to stop just the promotion of the festival via light pole banners that have for decades been used to promote just about every other major festivity. That ordinance was overturned in courts, and festivities have continued annually at Memorial Park at NW 36 and Classen.
Now, far from trying to block organizers of the festival from displaying banners, the Oklahoma City Council recently voted unanimously, without debate, to allow the event to shut down Sheridan Avenue to make Film Row the event's new home.
It was also a decade ago that the 700 block of W Sheridan Avenue was similarly the subject of scorn at City Hall. It was an area derided as “skid row.” But as with the Pride festivities, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this neighborhood also has enjoyed increased community support as it has re-emerged as Film Row.
Matt Harney, a board member of the organizing committee, is hoping relocation of the daylong festival will not just increase exposure for the event, but also promote the ongoing revival of Film Row.
The parade, he said, will stay at Memorial Park. But the festival, which will feature more than 60 exhibitors, will be set up along Sheridan Avenue where its new identity is being forged with an influx of creative firms, Joey's Pizzeria and the IAO Gallery.
The festival will get an early kickoff with an outdoor screening of the movie “The Sons of Tennessee Williams” at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The festival itself will run 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and will include booths hosted by interfaith religious organizations and a children's zone with face-painting, music and inflated jumping bubbles.
Harney notes that while the festival is hosted by the city's gay, lesbian and bisexual community, it's an overall celebration of diversity, and he sees Film Row's growing creative class as a natural partner in moving forward.
“It's an up and coming cool part of town,” Harney said. “There's so much going on — so much development there with the restaurants, the IAO gallery. We want to play our part.
“We appreciate the creative community. There's a good overlap between art, film and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).”