OAKLAND (KPIX) -- Oakland Pride returned Sunday for the first time since the pandemic as cheerful crowds filled several downtown city blocks for the all-day festival.
"The energy in Oakland is always immaculate! We are just outside having a good time and vibing with everybody," said Monni Fern, an Oakland resident who is a member of the We Skate Oakland group. She and two of her friends were at Pride promoting their roller skate club.
"Connecting with people and just feeling comfortable in expressing ourselves as we are," said one of Fern's friends from We Skate Oakland who goes by Abby.
The parade started Sunday morning. The festival featured vendors, companies and nonprofits while performers took to the stage throughout the day.
Among the community organizations at Pride, Project Eden focused on LGBT youth. Its team says they're hopeful about the progress made in controlling the monkeypox epidemic. They're helping the public understand it is not a disease limited to the gay community. In addition, their work is intended to help transgender and non-binary students throughout the school year.
"I think folks are really doing a stronger effort of getting the word out than we did with COVID," Robert Lopez said. He is a prevention specialist with Project Eden, which is part of Horizon Services in Hayward.
"Just being a person who is listening -- that one person they can talk to because we know that lowers their risk of committing suicide."
The return of Pride came as hot weather around the Bay Area made the need to cool off especially necessary in many East Bay communities. People at the festival turned to vendors with cold treats to manage the heat.
"It will hit the spot and there will be a long line as the day goes on," said Michael Dabney, a Rainbow Italian Ice vendor based in Oakland. He says he was the first to bring the product to California from the East Coast 18 years ago. "It is awesome to have these events back online and people are out, back to doing the things they love to do."
Dabney was grateful for another chance to catch customers since he had limited opportunities early in the pandemic. Pride was one more recent event helping him with his business's recovery.
"I feel like unity and just, like, bringing the people together is important," Fern said.
Oakland Pridefest will continue the celebration Sunday, Sept. 11.
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