“There were no major issues. The only thing we can hope for is a bigger one next year,” he said. “We hope this festival wipes away that stigma of Marietta being the most anti-gay city in America and just become Marietta. This is about taking a step forward. That’s all we’re trying to do.”
Click here for our photo gallery from the event
Murphy said more than 1,000 people came to the fest throughout the day. “The event far exceeded our expectations,” he said.
Nicole Paige Brooks from Marietta and contestant on last season’s “Rupaul’s Drag Race” was the mistress of ceremonies at her hometown’s first Pride. More than 60 performers plus several DJs also donated their time for the first fest.
There was some concern, however, that anti-gay protesters may show up to the event. There were numerous security guards on hand and Murphy wore a bulletproof jacket under his shirt all day after being advised to do so by the event’s security team. Murphy also had a personal security team with him at all times, he said.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Murphy said. “There was an article in the paper and some of the reactions to that were negative. We were expecting protesters, but not one single one showed up. We just didn’t want to have something happen and not have a contingency plan in place.”
Some anti-gay groups also apparently called the city of Marietta and Marietta officials let Murphy know about some of the threats. There were numerous police officers working the event and everyone had their bags checked as they entered the plaza.
But there were no negative or threatening incidents that took place, Murphy said, and he’s already set to plan next year’s fest to be held in June.
“It was incredible,” he said Monday. “It was a complete success. Everything went extremely well — I think it was awesome.”
Jeanie Ward, 58, of Marietta, was shocked when she heard Marietta was holding a Gay Pride event.
“I saw this on Facebook and I have to tell you I almost passed out. I was just stunned,” she said on Saturday.
Ward has lived in and out of Georgia over the course of many years and worked for the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative at one time. Times have changed since the Cobb County Commission in 1993 passed a resolution stating the “life style advocated by the gay community” was “incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes.” This resolution then led to the formation of Olympics Out of Cobb, a group of LGBT activists that successfully campaigned to keep the Olympics from holding volleyball competitions in Cobb County in 1996.
“I’m just delighted to see this happening in Marietta. I truly had to pinch myself,” Ward said. “This is truly a wonderful thing.”
Andrew Keller, 25, is the DJ for the band La Chansons that played at the fest. Keller, who is gay, is in the band with his older brother, Greg, and his brother’s wife. His parents, Lynn and Gary Keller, were on hand to watch the group play at the first Marietta Pride.
“It’s very exciting. I grew up in Marietta, so it’s really awesome they even have a festival now,” Andrew Keller said.
Jessica Rutledge, 19, of Marietta, was also thrilled about having Gay Pride in her hometown.
“I think it’s great. I usually go to the one in Atlanta, but it’s great to just drive down the street,” she said.
Timothy Harper, 41, of Marietta and a bartender at LeBuzz, is a classically trained singer with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in opera. He has sung with the Atlanta Opera and with other orchestras. He wowed the crowd at the Marietta Rainbow Fest.
“Because I believe with all societies and all people, there should be diversity and everybody should have the same rights as everyone else — that’s why I’m here to support this,” he said.
Nicole Bell, president of Triple J’s Catering, was on hand providing food for the crowd.
“We wanted to be a part of this — it’s a privilege to be part of something like this,” she said.
The theme for Marietta’s first Pride event was “Our Declaration of Independence.”
North Georgia Rainbow Coalition
Top photo: (Johnathan Murphy, right, with entertainer Brent Star. Murphy, who organized Marietta’s first Gay Pride event, said he hopes the event wipes away the stigma of Marietta as an anti-gay city. (by Dyana Bagby)