State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, Ferndale Mayor David Coulter, City Councilwoman Melanie Piana, state Rep. Jeremy Moss, City Councilman Dan Martin and U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin release balloons representing colors of the rainbow flag during Ferndale Pride’s opening ceremony June 2.

State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, Ferndale Mayor David Coulter, City Councilwoman Melanie Piana, state Rep. Jeremy Moss, City Councilman Dan Martin and U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin release balloons representing colors of the rainbow flag during Ferndale Pride’s opening ceremony June 2.

Photo by Brandy Baker


2018 Ferndale Pride believed to be biggest in event’s history

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 4, 2018

 Wrapped in rainbow and transgender colors, Axel Laurain, 18, of Troy, and Alden Hoskins, 18, of Lake Orion, watch the PRISM Men’s Chorus perform during Ferndale Pride’s opening ceremony.

Wrapped in rainbow and transgender colors, Axel Laurain, 18, of Troy, and Alden Hoskins, 18, of Lake Orion, watch the PRISM Men’s Chorus perform during Ferndale Pride’s opening ceremony.

Photo by Brandy Baker

FERNDALE — The eighth annual Ferndale Pride festival looked to be the biggest event in its history, according to an event organizer. 

Ferndale Pride took place Saturday, June 2, with its largest footprint ever, taking over West Nine Mile Road between Woodward and Livernois avenues, and portions of Planavon Street and Allen Road.

Adorned with rainbow, transgender and other LGBT-related pride flags, Nine Mile saw thousands of people walk the street, checking out the vendors and organizations staffing 150 tables.

“We were busy from the moment we opened until the end. It was like a constant stream of people, so I think overall we had a great turnout,” event organizer Julia Music said. “It’s fair to say we had the best turnout of the event’s history. It was packed all day long. People were participating in all of the events going on all over the place.”

The expansion of this year’s event was something Music was glad they did, as she thinks there otherwise wouldn’t have been enough room for all of the people who attended.

“It’s also really gratifying to see that groups are showing up and really feeling more free to just come out in colors that they feel represent them, or come out and be really celebratory of groups they might not have met before or people they might not have known,” she said.  

It was the fifth Ferndale Pride for Rhonda Westphal and her partner, Rebecca Smith, who moved to the city in 2013.

Westphal said her experience with Ferndale Pride has been a positive one. 

“It’s the overall experience for me,” she said. “It’s seeing people be comfortable, to be honest with you. … It feels very safe to me and very inclusive and very comfortable to me.”

Before the festival got underway, attendees were treated to the yearly balloon release of the LGBTQ colors and a wedding between Jenny Larson and Tia Wheeler, which Music said was her favorite moment of this year’s Pride.

“It was just a beautiful event, and Tia and Jenny, they were dressed perfectly for the occasion, and it was really special for them,” she said.

The opening ceremony also featured a performance from the PRISM Men’s Chorus. One of those members, Bill LeAnnais, is in the midst of his first season with the music group, which performed Broadway tunes for the Pride crowds.

LeAnnais said performing at Pride was a “full circle” moment for him.

“I’ve been coming to Ferndale Pride for several years now,” he said. “It was really cool to kind of be a part of that (with), you know, this group of guys that I’ve really gotten to know and learned to love over the last few months.”

LeAnnais has been to Pride for the past four years. As a native of Ferndale, he said it’s always been an interesting day seeing all the people, and then to attend as an openly gay man was really cool. 

“Ferndale Pride, in general, is just a great atmosphere,” he said. “It’s super inclusive, which is great. It’s very intersectional. … It’s just been really neat coming the last few years and seeing it continue to be this huge celebration of just different walks of life and diversity.”