Heartland Pride embraced at first foray into St. Patty’s Parade

Members of Heartland Pride prepare to march at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

Emma Whaley

Omaha World-Herald Explorer

A different kind of rainbow led to the pot of gold Saturday at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Thirty-five to 40 supporters and members of Heartland Pride marched proudly though the streets, a massive rainbow flag trailing behind them.

Heartland Pride is an organization whose mission is “celebrating and promoting the history, diversity, and future prosperity of the LGBTQIA community of the heartland.” It is a non-profit organization that strives to raise awareness of and support for members of the LGBT community. It gives up to $5,000 in scholarships each year and hosts the Tom Mahony Pride Prom, as well as holding its annual pride festival in Aksarben Village

The sun reflects a rainbow on the pavement underneath a large rainbow flag carried by members of Heartland Pride, who marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING
The sun reflects a rainbow on the pavement underneath a large rainbow flag carried by members of Heartland Pride, who marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

Saturday was Heartland Pride’s first time in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but the organization showed the spirit of seasoned marchers. Participants wore green hats and necklaces. Caleb Edmonson donned a green suit and leprechaun ears while the current president of Heartland Pride, Christina Arellano, wore a hat complete with two ginger braids.

“We are trying to work on our branding,” Arellano said. “People seem to think that Heartland Pride is just one big annual party . . . so we are trying to get our name out there as a non-profit organization and not just our annual festival.”

Scores of people and their children lined the curb of the parade route, which began at 15th and Harney Streets and stretched out for nine blocks. When asked about expected ridicule, Arellano responded, “we’ve had nothing but positive feedback . . . there’s always that fear and the hope that nobody does or says anything like that.”

It seems that the feedback stayed positive. Tina Larson, who was there with her two grandchildren, said she had no problem with Heartland Pride marching in the parade.

“I think they deserve every right to (march),” Larson said, “I’ll be the one cheering for them.”

Pride2
Members of Heartland Pride march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Omaha on March 11. EMMA WHALEY/EXPLORING

That sort of mindset was found all along the parade route. People didn’t seem to care that a bunch of LGBT people and allies were going to march down the street handing their children candy and necklaces.

Danielle Johnson helped carry Heartland Pride’s rainbow flag on Saturday. She shared why she and her eight-year-old daughter decided to come out in the cold and show pride.

“I think anytime you see kids, adults, older adults that are being accepting,” Johnson said, “it shows the younger generation that they can be themselves and they can be okay. I actually have a five-year-old transgender daughter . . . that’s why we’re here.”

It just goes to show that whether it’s in an Irish flag or a rainbow one, everyone can show off a little green leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.

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