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Pride celebrations fill San Francisco Civic Center Plaza on eve of parade

Pride celebrations fill S.F. Civic Center Plaza
Pride celebrations fill S.F. Civic Center Plaza 03:13

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pride Weekend kicked off in San Francisco Saturday morning with the Pride Festival as streets around City Hall were transformed into the rainbow party which has become a beacon of hope for the LGBT community. 

The Pride Festival is a place to cut loose for people who often spend much of their lives pretending to be someone else to please others.

RELATED: Pride Weekend in S.F.: What you need to know

"When you're introduced into a world that makes it very clear that you're not welcome, it's really hard as a young person," said Jaylene Tyme, a drag performer who, as a trans Native-American, feels like a minority within a minority.  She said she appreciates those who came before her and considers performing at the festival a way of paying it forward to the younger generation.

"When we come together and we create, in a good way, brave spaces for people to feel like they can be themselves -- sometimes for the first time -- I know that any challenges that I've had in my journey is worth it," Tyme said.

Mostly the festival is about joy and the members of SF Cheer provided plenty of that. On Saturday, they invited other LGBT cheer and dance teams to help them get the crowd fired up for Pride.

"We have this big family that we get to share this experience with," said SF Cheer member Manny Gonzalez. "We're just a huge group of cheerleaders who retired at some point and came back to cheer some more for charity!"

"The energy here is so good," said festival-goer Amy McGrath, "And everybody's happy, everybody's having a good time enjoying each other's company. It's the way the world should be!"

At the festival, people dance to their own beat, from drag chic to hip-hop to Latin music and being a non-conformist is not only allowed -- it's encouraged. You might think that would bother someone like Elizabeth Daniels, an elderly visitor from Las Vegas.  At least that's what her gay grandson initially thought.

"At first when he asked me to go, he thought -- me being a old timer, I'm 86 years old -- he thought that I was going to have a problem with it.  And I said, 'why sure!'  And so we've been to three," she laughed.

And for those who were having a problem with it, there were Danielle Dones and Tabitha Solano circulating through the crowd offering "Free Mom Hugs" to anybody who needed one.

"It can be families that aren't accepting. It could be people who lost their moms.  Anybody -- everybody -- needs a mom hug!" Dones said.  "It's community, it's camaraderie.  Everybody's here, everybody's sharing, everybody's having fun.  It's so nice to be able to see everybody living their lives the way that they want to."

With so much political discord in the country, many in the LBGT community feel that acceptance has taken a step back.  But, for them, Pride is an annual shot of joy and hope that the march forward will continue.

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