Your guide to your first Pride parade

Crowd raising and holding rainbow gay and trans flags during a Gay Pride.

We see it whenever June comes around: rainbow flags, stickers, and banners making merchandise displays, store windows, and everyone’s social media timelines bright and colorful. It’s Pride Month, and everyone is happy to take part.

What is Pride month all about?

Pride Month is the LGBTQIA+ community’s global celebration of their long history of fighting for rights and equality. It particularly honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, recognized as the galvanizing event that birthed the LGBTQIA+ movement. Nearly half a century later, major cities worldwide hold their own festivities in its honor, culminating in festive Pride parades where both LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies gather.

What is the history behind Pride Month?

As fun and carefree as Pride parades are now, they are rooted in a painful past.

In 1969, engaging in homosexual relations was illegal in New York. People identifying as LGBTQ+ had to be careful with their actions and clothing choices to avoid harassment and possible arrest. Gay bars were the only relatively safe spaces where they could socialize, but even these places were subject to frequent police raids.

The Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village was one such place. In the early morning of June 28, 1969, nine police officers raided the bar to arrest employees for selling liquor without a license. In the process, they also harassed patrons and rounded up several individuals they suspected of being queer.

Unlike in previous raids, however, customers didn’t disperse as the police had instructed them to. Instead, they stayed outside the bar, jeering angrily at the officials and attracting onlookers, including transgender women activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. At one point, the growing crowd began throwing bottles and debris. The police barricaded themselves inside Stonewall and called for reinforcement while the 400-strong mob rioted outside. The bar was also set on fire at one point, although the police were able to contain and extinguish it.

The riots continued for the next five days, resulting from the LGBTQ+ community’s pent-up frustrations against constant police harassment and social discrimination. It was the first time that lesbians, gays, and transgender people saw what they could achieve by standing in solidarity with one another.

How did the Pride colors come to be?

The symbol of the Pride movement, the rainbow flag, was designed in 1978 by queer artist and drag queen Gilbert Baker. He saw the flag as a powerful way to declare one’s identity and the rainbow as the natural colors of the sky, each shade having its own meaning. Due to production issues, however, the first-ever rainbow flag that was flown during the June 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade only had six colors instead of the eight that Baker had intended: red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (harmony), and violet (spirit). Indigo was replaced with blue, while pink (sex) and turquoise (art) were scrapped.

Today, the six-striped rainbow flag is the most ubiquitous rainbow flag variant used worldwide during Pride celebrations symbolizing the diversity behind the united LGBTQ+ community.

What do you do at a Pride parade?

Like any parade, Pride marches involve crowds in the streets, either as members of an organized spectacle or as cheering bystanders. There could also be a program held at the end of the parade, with performances and speeches from different LGBTQ+ groups and advocates. Most people come garbed in various styles of Pride parade fashion.

How can a first-timer prepare for a Pride parade?

With the sheer amount of attendees it attracts, a Pride parade is undoubtedly fun and empowering but also overwhelming to a first-timer. A little planning definitely helps make the experience more enjoyable.

1. Go with friends.

Whether you’re an LGBTQ+ individual or an ally, it helps to have familiar faces with you for safety and enjoyment. Even better, have a Pride parade buddy who will look out for you and vice versa during the festivities.

2. Research the location of the Pride parade you choose to attend.

Find out how accessible it is to either public or private transportation and where the nearby parking spaces are. Take note of where the nearest clinic or police station would be in case of an emergency. Check if there are accessible public restrooms, water refilling stations, and nearby dining places. Look up the program schedule and details of the parade and any emergency hotlines provided by the organizers.

3. Prepare your Pride parade pack.

Here are the essentials you need to bring:

  • A fully charged phone and a portable charger for both communication and picture- and video-taking purposes
  • Your wallet with ID and cash for emergency purchases
  • A refillable water bottle to keep you hydrated
  • Snacks you can eat while walking, such as granola or energy bars
  • An extra shirt you can change into. Why not customize any of Canva’s Pride t-shirt templates(opens in a new tab or window) to create your own design and remain on the theme?
  • A first-aid kit containing adhesive bandages, pain medication, gauze, and hand sanitizer to address minor injuries like blisters and heat-induced headaches
  • Sunblock to keep your exposed skin protected from the sun
  • A hat/foldable umbrella as weather protection
  • Pride posters that amplify the movement. Browse through our templates for gay rights posters(opens in a new tab or window) to spark some ideas for witty slogans and designs. You can replicate elements of your poster design on stickers(opens in a new tab or window) that you can share with other attendees. They can double as accent labels you can stick onto your stuff for quick identification or keepsake for your fellow first-timers or regulars.

4. Choose a bag that leaves your hands free.

We suggest the ever-practical tote that lets you access your things easily. Why not stamp yours with Pride colors? Look through our tote bag templates(opens in a new tab or window) to find a customizable design that suits your taste.

5. Plan your Pride parade outfit.

This is part of the fun in Pride celebrations. Remember to keep comfort a priority, though, since you’ll be standing and walking a lot. Check the forecast for Pride day, too, so you’ll have an idea if you’d need to dress for sunny or rainy weather.

A casual look is recommended for first-time attendees: a cotton t-shirt with Pride colors paired with denim shorts. If you have plain white sweatshirts or hoodies, customize them for a sportier Pride march look with the help of the design ideas in our Pride hoodie(opens in a new tab or window) and Pride sweatshirt templates(opens in a new tab or window). Alternatively, you can wear a plain outfit that’s accessorized with rainbow-colored socks, belts, neckties, sunglasses, hair ties and clips, and more. There are no rules for Pride parade outfits because the occasion welcomes diversity.

That means if you are up to it, you can be as creative as you wish. If you have rainbow-colored dresses and sparkly pieces, wear them proudly. Flamboyant accessories such as feather boas and tiaras will fit right in with the artistic Pride crowd. Remember that comfort should be the prime factor. Opt for sneakers and sandals with arch support.

6. Use a trusted printing service like Canva Print for all of your customized Pride paraphernalia.

Don’t let your poster designs and outfit customizations get ruined by low-quality printing. Check out our professional printing services with our hassle-free order placement system. Canva Print(opens in a new tab or window) guides you through checking your designs’ print specifications so they look great on paper or cloth. Plus, we offer free delivery via standard shipping once the print job is done, all for an affordable price.

Pride is ultimately about community.

As a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride parades are occasions where allies can show their support for and solidarity with their queer brothers and sisters.

Open yourself to the possibilities for connections that your first Pride march offers. Meet and make new friends. Join the impromptu dance and singalong parties among fellow attendees. Add your voice to chants advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. Listen to advocates and community leaders to learn how to fight for equality and get inspired. Experience the empowerment that comes from standing in solidarity with others to fight for just causes. Most of all, enjoy yourself. It’s a Pride celebration, after all.

Happy Pride Month!

Related articles

See all

Bring your ideas to life in minutes

Express yourself with the world's easiest design program.