Being a proud gay journalist, I’ve travelled to dozens of pride events around the world. From São Paulo to Nashville, I’ve seen just about everything. But, the one thing I had never seen was a night-time parade. That all changed in Providence. Yes…Providence, Rhode Island!
I was thoroughly impressed by the scope and attendance of this pride festivity called Illuminated Night Parade, part of Rhode Island Pride Fest. The over 2-hour parade dazzled spectators with dozens of floats from the traditional to over-the-top masterpieces, most notably the recreation of the Stonewall Inn, which closed out the parade.
Just as the sun set over downtown Providence, the parade began, with floats decked out in lights, glitter and lots of color. Hundreds of people marched in the parade, which continues to grow each year. From age 5 to 75, the Rhode Island community came out in full force to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
Some of the most memorable participants in the parade included Youth Pride and Proud Moms & Dads who held signs offering free hugs.
After the parade, it seemed like the entire crowd headed to Ego, a nightclub which organizes a massive block party every year, ironically called Massive. This year the celebration was brought to new heights with DJ Nina Flowers and Alex Acosta at the turntables. Thousands of people lined the street and partied to amazing music and a spectacular laser light show. I never would have known this type of event could take place in Providence.
Block parties are apparently a thing here, as the night prior, many of the other gay bars in the city including Stable, Dark Lady, Alley Cat and The Eagle all threw block parties of their own during the weekend-long celebration. The Dark Lady/Alley Cat party was headlined by musical group Exposé, which brought me back to my teen years. I may have shed a bit of a tear when they sang “I’ll Never Get Over You,” which they dedicated to Chris Harris, one of the pillars of the Providence LGBTQ community who recently passed away and was an honorary Grand Marshall of the parade.
My host hotel for the weekend was the beautiful Omni Hotel and everywhere I turned there were rainbow flags, glitter and scores of LGBTQ people in the lobby gathering with friends. It was wonderful to see a city of its size have such a large celebration that brings in visitors from around the region.
I continued the pride celebration at The Official Rhode Island Pride Drag Brunch, which was held at The Graduate hotel. The festive brunch was hosted by Miss Gay Rhode Island 2019, Pulp and Mr. Gay Rhode Island 2019, Bret Jacob and featured performances by RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 4 alum Jasmine Masters, Jaqueline DiMera, Kira Stone, Onyx, Assa Sination, and Complete Destruction. A big shout out to Rhode Island Pride president Joe Lazzerini and his team for organizing a truly incredible festival.
In addition to bring an extremely gay-friendly city, Providence also has a bustling foodie scene, so if brunch isn’t your thing, head to Yoleni’s, a wonderful Greek-inspired eatery and market which serves delicious sandwiches, aromatic coffee and freshly squeezed juices. My favorite item on the menu was the authentic Greek yogurt, which is offered in a variety of flavors and you can add about a dozen toppings. I of course opted for rainbow sprinkles.
Another restaurant worth visiting is Rosalina (Yoleni’s sister restaurant). A truly authentic Italian experience, I was drawn to the Caprese salad prepared with burrata cheese, tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil, with rolled slices of prosciutto de Parma. The cheese simply melts in your mouth and the pairing of the prosciutto is delectable. I could have made this my meal.
Not too far away is Sarto, an Italian Osteria and Salumeria that offers a creative and modern take on rustic Italian fare. While there, I enjoyed the Pan Roasted Skate, which was served with Green Almond Salsa Verde, Charred Lemon and Riso Nero. The skate was cooked perfectly, and the portion size was enough to feed two people. Providence doesn’t lack Italian eateries and the ones I had an opportunity to visit on this trip were unique and delicious.
Since the focus of my trip was centered around Rhode Island Pride, I didn’t have a ton of time to explore many of the city’s neighborhoods and attractions like I normally do. However, I did have a chance visit the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was constructed to honor the 1,727 Rhode Islanders who gave their lives in the Civil War.
There is so much more to explore in Providence as well as the rest of Rhode Island, so I guess that means I need to come back for an extended visit.
Enjoy the Journey!