To be honest, I never intended to be in the parade…
How should I tell this story? Twin Cities Pride's annual Ashley Rukes Parade happened earlier today. Prompted by a crazy idea from a friend of mine, I wound up riding along the parade route. It was not what I had planned to do after my original task, but…I better give you some background.
It is not the first time I have participated in a parade. My first recollection was with a regional group of young folks in Santa Rosa, California at their Pride festivities about 1992. That led to an idea to bring a coalition of LGBT student groups amongst California State University campuses to march in San Francisco's parade the next year. It was a project of mine in light of my graduation from its Hayward campus a week or so prior.
I had no intention of marching in my first Twin Cities Pride when I visited here in 2001 from Madison, Wisconsin. My host and friend David was going to march with his employer's LGBT resource group, so he left me in the hands of the North Country Bears. I marched with the Bears in a humid, somewhat overcast day. I remember collapsing when we got to Loring Park. Lesson learned for this West Coast kid.
Every year, I make it a tradition to photograph the lineup of the parade on Sunday. With growing media access came access to politicians and local celebrities. The idea is to capture the essence of preparation before departing onto Hennepin Avenue. It was a way to see friends and photograph them as part of this preparation.
This year was no different. I photographed both of the current United States Senators from Minnesota, a few local politicians and the Grand Marshals, along with a good friend driving his church's minibus for the first time in the parade. There were also some interesting vehicles slated to come down Hennepin – including a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow. It was the first entry in the parade for the state's transportation agency.
Usually, a dealership sponsor would provide vehicles for the Grand Marshals at Twin Cities Pride. This year, my friend Richard was tasked for the job as the General Manager of the Mitsubishi and Volkswagen stores in the East Metro. The Grand Marshals rode in a fleet of black 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertibles. Richard was hoping for a rainbow color selection of the new Beetle ragtops, but they were selling like hotcakes out of his Inver Grove Heights VW store. He could not get an Eos or even a pre-owned Eclipse Spyder from the White Bear Lake Mitsubishi store.
To compliment the Beetles, Richard added a 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR and a 2014 Outlander – both black. The idea was to use the white bear costume and show it off either walking alongside the cars, or in some other way. Richard had the bear suit poked through the sunroof of the Evo with one of his interns working to jig it about to the music. That brought everyone around the cars to laughter.
As I was photographing one of the Grand Marshals – Oakland Raiders punter Chris Kluwe (the former Minnesota Vikings star who came in defense of same-gender marriage during the amendment campaign last fall) – Richard came up with an idea. He told me that another Grand Marshal, photographer Brent Dundore, was going to get proposed to be married in front of the reviewing stand at Hennepin and Eighth Street. I was to be at the spot to photograph the proposal. I asked Richard, "how am I going to get here on time to capture this?" He said to jump in the Outlander and run from there when we stop at the reviewing stand.
Sounds like a crazy plan? It was.
While sitting in the Outlander, I started to figure out I needed to do something as I was riding along Hennepin. After all, I am making inroads in the local community as an automotive writer and a contributor to Lavender magazine in that subject. Heck, you may never know who might see you in the parade.
Well, hey, why not hype up the crowd – wave, say "Happy Pride" and all that. I was leaning on the passenger side, which only got me half the crowd to see. I knew I was opposite the magazine sponsored rooftop party across front the reviewing stand, so I had no clue if my editor, my publisher or anyone I knew at the restaurant would see me in the Outlander.
It worked…for a while.
We kept on stopping a lot along the way. Fans wanting a photograph or something from Kluwe and police letting traffic go through since the Twins were playing nearby at Target Field. It dawned on me that we stopped again at the reviewing stand that I should have gone out to take the photos of that magic moment. I figured I was late. I ran out of the Outlander – real fast – and got to the happy couple's Beetle Cabrio. They already proposed. The partner was crying still, but I had enough photos to get what I needed.
Running back to the Outlander, I was somewhat fulfilled. I had some strength length to wave – alternating between hands/arms – and some voice to still yell with. It got a bit tiring the closer we got to the end of the parade.
Let us just say that…it was fun. I am not huge on parades and last year's photographing from the sidelines was an experience I rather not repeat again. Maybe it beat being up on the rooftop of some nice restaurant with hundreds of people and such.
I have to hand it to Richard for coming up some with some crazy ideas for me to work with. Believe me, they are great ones. That is why he is successful in what he does with the dealerships he runs in this community.
As for being in another Ashley Rukes Parade…if Victory & Reseda could get a budget and some collaboration going, I might just get a few folks to join in and pull it off.
All photos by Randy Stern