Thousands of people dressed in rainbow tutus, high-heeled leather boots and sparkling body paint lined downtown Omaha streets Saturday for the Heartland Pride Parade.
The largest summer parade in Omaha returned after a five-year run in Council Bluffs.
A heat index exceeding 100 degrees dropped a hot blanket over the parade.
This year’s theme was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City. The riots are often referred to as the first major push in the LGBT rights movement.
Heartland Pride President Ryan Fuller said one of the many goals of the day was to raise awareness.
“Being in Omaha, it’s coming more full circle and accepted,” Fuller said. “Pride is about being free to express who you are, love who you love and let your colors fly.”
Kimberly Persons and Katie Brown gave out “free mom hugs” before and during the parade.
Both mothers of two said that their hugs were in high demand before the parade and that the process made them shed tears.
“I think it’s important for us because we want to make sure we leave our kids a loving and more accepting world,” Persons said. “It’s an important day for a different reason for each person you talk to.”
Raychal Raymond, 17, and Mackenzie Madsen, 18, came from North Bend, Nebraska.
“This day means so much to me because especially being in a small town, it’s hard to be yourself,” Raymond said. “Coming here and feeling so accepted is so amazing.”
Madsen said she came to the parade, her first pride parade, to support Raymond, who is bisexual.
“There’s not a lot of acceptance where we’re at, and we only live an hour away from here,” Madsen said.
Elleanor Smith and Daniel Murphy traveled from Sioux City, Iowa.
Smith is pansexual (having attraction to others regardless of their sex or gender identity) and said events like the parade are “great moments in history.”
“The world is a crappy and somewhat hateful place, and having it within yourself to feel that love and know that there are others out there who will accept you for who you are is so important,” Smith said.
The parade was followed by a Pride Festival at Baxter Arena.