For most of its first four decades, Atlanta Pride was held in June in Piedmont Park. June is National LGBT Pride Month, chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, when patrons at a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York City fought back against police harassment in what is viewed as the start of the modern LGBT rights movement.
Pride festivals sprung up the next year to commemorate the riot. Atlanta held its first Pride march in 1971, when about 100 people marched down Peachtree Street to Piedmont Park.
With few exceptions, Atlanta Pride was held in Piedmont Park until 2008, when a massive drought struck the region. City officials booted all large festivals from the parched parks, fearing the grass would not be able to recover from prolonged foot traffic.
Held over July Fourth weekend at the Civic Center, Atlanta Pride attendance and finances suffered. Pride leaders knew that for the festival to survive and thrive, they had to get back to Piedmont Park, gay Atlanta’s backyard. So they managed to move back to the park for 2009, but over Halloween, to get around city policies that limited festivals in the summer season.
In 2010, organizers decided to make the date change official, choosing to hold Atlanta Pride on the second weekend in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
The festival was also held near National Coming Out Day in 2011 and 2012, but drew criticism from Jewish leaders when the 2011 dates conflicted with the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
The Jewish High Holy Days fall earlier this year. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sept. 4 and Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sept. 13.
Top photo: Atlata Pride’s annual Kickoff Bash draws some 3,000 people to the Georgia Aquarium each year. (Photo by Brent Corcoran/RNZ Photography)