A gigantic rainbow banner makes its way down Hennepin Avenue during the 2011 Twin Cities Pride parade Sunday, June 26, 2011. Gov. Mark Dayton, the first Minnesota governor to participate, walked the length of Sunday's parade route. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Much of the weekend was overcast, but that didn't stop rainbows from claiming the skies of downtown Minneapolis.
Bright flags, floats and costumes paraded down Hennepin Avenue during the 29th annual Twin Cities Pride Festival, which again packed downtown's Hennepin Avenue and Loring Park with massive crowds. In addition to the colorful celebrations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender life, many participants had politics on their mind, thanks to Minnesota's proposed amendment to ban gay marriage and New York state's vote Friday to legalize such unions.
Terese Pritschet of Minneapolis attended the parade with two friends and her two young-adult daughters Sunday. She's been attending the community festival, which began in the 1970s as a gay-rights march, for decades. She said attending the parade this year felt more important than in recent years, she said.
"This is such interesting timing. It is a very big year for people to come out here and show their support," she said. "The New York decision is energizing us, it is energizing Pride, but we need all of the support we can get against this amendment."
Pritschet's friend Linda Pate, who has attended Twin Cities Pride since the 1980s and also been to similar festivals in other cities, said this year's event felt unique.
"This one is particularly fun and engaging. You have the sense that it is about something bigger," she said.
Amid cheers for Gov. Mark Dayton, who walked the length of Sunday's


parade as the first Minnesota governor to participate, many in the crowd could be heard talking about the proposed constitutional amendment, passed last month by the state Legislature, that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Voters will decide in 2012 whether to adopt the amendment.. The Socialist Alternative, a national community activism group, was among several organizations Sunday seeking to mobilize grass-roots efforts to defeat the marriage amendment.
Volunteer Ty Moore said groups consider the 16 months before the amendment will appear on the general-election ballot an opportunity to get the word out.
"We want to find people who are really interested in getting active," he said. "So far, there is a lot of interest - more interest than our volunteers can field."
Katie McDonald of Minneapolis attended the festival Saturday and Sunday with her partner and friends, and the 20-somethings all agreed that Pride will always be part party, part celebration of individuality.
"But New York is giving everything a new energy....The best way I've heard it put is that New York is the petri dish for the rest of the country," she said.
With a historic legislative vote late Friday, New York became the sixth - and the most populous - state to legalize same-sex marriage since Massachusetts led the way, under court order, in 2004.
One St. Paul family was among those motivated to attend Pride this year, in large part because of New York's legislation.
Erin Obert, along with her husband and two children, went to Loring Park after being inspired by gay friends who decided to wed this weekend in New York.
"I guess that motivated us to come out, have some fun as a family and show our support," Obert said as her daughter Kiera, 9, received glittery rainbow "Pride eyes" at a face-painting booth in Loring Park.
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