Columbus Pride Festival expected to be largest ever, organizers say

(WBNS)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — About a half-million people are expected to flock to downtown to celebrate the Columbus Pride Festival. Stonewall Columbus says they expect this one to be their largest ever.

Last year, they had 8,000 people marching in the parade. This year, they expect more than 13,000 marchers. With that many people expected, Columbus police are going to be busy making sure everyone is safe.

“It’s going to be huge. I just found out today we are trending on Orbitz. We are one of the top seven Pride destinations in the country. That puts us ahead of even San Francisco for Pride destinations,” said Stonewall Executive Director, AJ Casey.

INFO: Pride Fest schedule, parking, road closures >>

“It’s the one day a year people feel comfortable to come down and just celebrate who they are and we want to ensure that the celebration for them is as safe as possible and that they have a really good time while they are in the city,” said Columbus Police Lieutenant Nick Konves.

While festival-goers will concentrate on celebrating pride with friends, Columbus police are focused on everyone's safety. Officers from every unit, including bike patrols, mounted unit and even homeland security will be keeping a close eye on the crowds.

Police ask you to do your part.

“Please travel in pairs while you are out there. Watch your drinks. We know that some folks may over drink this weekend. Watch your friends, be a good friend. If you see one of your friends who may need medical attention, please reach out to a uniformed officer,” said Lt. Konves.

“We’ve been working with CPD to make sure that not only are we safe, but that the community interacts safely with the police and with everybody,” Casey said.

Several downtown streets will be closed for the festival. Police suggest taking advantage of ride-sharing services.

“It’s important that we remind riders that you check and confirm the license plate on the vehicle as the one that is on the app, so that way you know which vehicle, that you are getting into the right vehicle,” Lt. Konves said.

While you will see dozens of officers out for the festival, the executive director of Stonewall says they aren't expecting any problems.

“We know that there are people who will be staging protests during the march, during the parade and festival. We know that they are there. We are working with Columbus Police Department to make sure we are safe, but there are no direct threats that make us on any extra high alert this weekend,” Casey said.