By Liz Massey, April 2017 Issue.

What started out as a march for political activism, it still serving the Greater Phoenix LGBTQ community – as well as allies and visitors – as a display of freedom, equality and pride.

This year’s Phoenix Pride Parade, presented by Bank of America, will take place April 2. This event is free and open to the public.

Paradegoers will see as many as 120 floats and walking units, as well as VIPs in automobiles, horse-powered units from Charlie’s and Wells Fargo, and the thunderous display of the Gay Sportsbike Riders who will lead the parade. Many of the entries will configure their presentations to align with Phoenix's theme for 2017: Stand Up, Stand Proud. (For Echo's complete Pride weekend coverage, click here.)

According to Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride executive director, the theme was chosen after last November’s elections and reflected the tenor of the current political climate.

“In the face of potential political adversity, we need to be proud of who we are,” he said. “Pride is an opportunity to unite and come together.”

Owen added that was excited with the way in which the parade helps bring the Valley’s LGBTQ community together year after year.

“It’s the opportunity for us to unite as one,” he said. “We are there together to stand up, and stand proud.”

Stacy Louis (left), owner of Stacy’s @ Melrose, and the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will serve as the 2017 Phoenix Pride Parade grand marshals.

The community grand marshals for the parade, Owen explained, were selected for demonstrating their ability to be a powerful force for good during difficult times.

Both the individual honoree Stacy Louis, owner of Stacy’s @ Melrose, and the group honoree, the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, are well known for their fundraising activities to benefit a variety of LGBTQ and other causes.

“We’re happy to celebrate what our community grand marshals do and the money they raise for so many agencies,” Owen said.

Louis, who frequently hosts fundraisers at his bar, did a special event after the Pulse Night Club mass shooting in Orlando to the assist victims. He said acting on the impulse to help others was just who he is.

“I love everyone – straight, LGBTQ, white, black, yellow, etc.,” he said. “If there’s something I can do to make this world better, I will do my best to help!”

Garry Hedgcoth, Abbess (in the persona of Sister Sugar Britches) of the Grand Canyon Sisters, explained that fundraising was at the heart of the organization. In 2016, the Grand Canyon Sisters raised money for Logan’s Playground, which provides free childcare for clients at Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS and the McDowell Healthcare Center, and hosted Arizona Mr. Prime Beef, a pageant for males over age 50 that raised more than $1,000 for the charity Bikers Against Child Abuse.

In response to the Grand Canyon Sisters being named grand marshal, Hedgcoth replied, “It is an honor, and I feel very blessed, somewhat overwhelmed and very proud of my sisters.”

As always, the parade will kick off at third Street and Thomas Road and run to Steele Indian School Park (at Third Street and Indian School Road). Additionally, announcer stages will be located at Third Street and Osborne as well as third Street and Clarendon Avenue.

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