Maine Man Who Made 900-Foot Flag to March in Boston Pride Parade 2019
June 6th 2019 By Dustin Wlodkowski
Click the link below to be taken to NBC Boston 10 to watch the interview. https://www.nbcboston.com/on-air/as-seen-on/River-of-Pride-Flag_NECN-510931612.html
A Maine man will be responsible for a big part of Boston’s Pride Parade — 900 feet of it to be exact.
That’s the length of the “River of Pride” flag, sewn together by Bishop McKechnie of Augusta.
For more than 10 weeks, McKechnie has been busy sewing, eight hours a day, to get the flag ready for Saturday.
“It’s a labor of love, we’ll just say that,” McKechnie explained.
He first had the idea to make an extremely large flag 13 years ago when customers at Blackstone’s, a well-known Portland bar, asked if they could be on the bar’s pride parade float.
“The clientele would come in and ask to be on the float,” he said. “It dawned on me [to] come up with something that would make the parade longer.”
That’s how, with limited sewing experience and support from his husband, David Hopkins, McKechnie created his first River of Pride flag with a length of 700 feet.
“This was my solution for people who felt unseen or unheard,” he explained.
As McKechnie put it, for the first time, anyone who didn’t belong to an organization or group with a float in the Portland Pride Parade could now belong to a new open-door group with no bar to entry.
A few uses later, the giant rainbow banner became 900 feet long and was used over and over in the Portland Pride Parade until 2017.
After a one-year hiatus, a friend put McKechnie in contact with Boston Pride.
The Massachusetts group jumped at the opportunity to use the flag made of a special shiny silk fabric, which McKechnie says has the price tag of “a nice car,” altogether.
A 200-foot Unity Flag will also make its way to Boston.
The separate flag sewn by McKechnie is meant to include people who don’t feel represented by the rainbow, like individuals who are non-binary.
“Some may feel they’re such a small sect inside the rainbow,” said McKechnie. “I created a brand new flag for those people.”
The Unity Flag uses all different kinds of swatches sews into one flag and has a multi-colored infinity symbol at its center.
It also has room for new colors to be added by anyone who feels they need a color not in the flag to be represented.
Having one of his epic flags in the Boston Pride Parade has been a dream of Bishop’s since the inception of his project that Hopkins said resulted in at least one “intense” needle accident.
But McKechnie, the one who actually had a needle go through his thumb, has never held one of his flags in a parade before.
That will change on Saturday.
“I’ll be marching in Boston. It’ll be my first time picking up the flag,” said McKechnie, who eschewed any type of title like “artist” or “creator,” saying it distracts from the togetherness he’s trying to foster.
“The flag doesn’t get its way down the parade route,” he said. “You make that happen.”
To clarify a few details from this news story:
The first 125 feet was sewn by Bishop and friends in 2006 along with 2007 to 2008 the addition 775 feet was added. The next 750 feet was sewn by Bishop alone in 2019. The 10 weeks included the 750 feet of The River of Pride Flag and 200 feet of The Unity Pride Flag.
Pride Portland! Organizers hope to leave discord behind
By Kate Irish Collins on June 4, 2019
PORTLAND — This year’s Pride Portland! festival will include 10 days of activities and events designed to celebrate the LGBTQ community.
In addition, the event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, often considered a galvanizing moment of the pride movement.
Organizers of the celebration also hope to avoid some of the perceived missteps and hurt feelings that resulted from the 2018 event.
In a press release earlier this year, Cybele Brandow, co-chair of Pride Portland!, apologized to anyone who felt “silenced, shamed, disrespected or unheard” during the planning for last year’s festival.
“It is my greatest and most sincere hope that we can all come together once more and funnel our efforts into yet another magnificent display of our many and diverse experiences, values, and personal expressions,” Brandow said.
On the other hand, Brandow also acknowledged the event has “grown and evolved over time into something quite different in appearance from its beginnings.”
But Brandow said the festival is still designed around “the belief that together we are stronger, and together we can raise our voices so high that even those who might otherwise ignore us cannot help but pay attention.”
“We have come a long way in many regards, and yet still have a ways to go in many more,” Brandow said.
One of the key, historic elements of the annual celebration will be making a comeback: the River of Pride flag will once again close the festival parade, which starts at 1 p.m. in Monument Square on Saturday, June 15.
The flag was brought back, organizers said, because it gives spectators a chance to be a part of the parade “and has (also) become a meaningful finale to many.”
According to the Pride Portland! website, the festival is held to “celebrate and honor the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ movement, raise awareness of the community’s ongoing struggles, and foster an environment of inclusivity, accessibility and solidarity.”
The theme of this year’s pride festival is “Resist. Remember. Rejoice.” It will focus on remembering the Stonewall uprising and what those five days in New York City a half-century ago have meant to the LGBTQ community.
The Stonewall uprising began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, after New York City police officers raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and arrested several people. It was the third such police action in a short period of time, and led to spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community.
Brandow said organizers would strive to “recognize the efforts, courage, and leadership of our elders and ancestors, both in Maine and around the world, who have fought, and too often lost their lives, in our collective struggle to live our truths.”
Pride Portland! said Maine’s first pride parade was held in 1987. This year’s festival kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, with a dance at Space, 538 Congress St.
Other events throughout the celebration include gay birding with Maine Audubon, Pride Night at the Portland Sea Dogs, and queer speed dating. The lineup also includes “The Evolution of a Revolution,” a panel discussion at the Portland Public Library, and a showing of the PBS documentary “Stonewall Uprising.”
A full schedule of events can be found online at www.prideportland.org.
The main event will be 2-6 p.m. June 15 in Deering Oaks Park after the parade, and will feature food trucks, live entertainment, family-friendly activities, a beer garden and a marketplace.
Boston Announces 9 Billboards
May 27 2019
Boston announces The River of Pride Flag & The Unity Pride Flag will be at the 49th Boston Pride march with 9 billboards throughout the city.
River of Pride Flag at Pride Portland! 2019
Pride Portland! MAY 8, 2019
We are happy to announce that a portion of the River of Pride flag has been registered and will be at the Pride Portland! parade this year.
It was everyone’s intention to have the flag in last year’s celebration. We understand how much work goes into managing the River of Pride flag and are moving forward in creating a more sustainable plan to avoid our missteps of last year and continue to have the flag in the parade when it is available to Portland. With the majority of the committee being new members we strive to learn from the past and continue to grow. Our Parade Chair requested the flag because the River of Pride was created to give spectators the opportunity to be a part of the parade and has become a meaningful finale to many.
A team of volunteers have stepped forward to be the custodians of the River of Pride flag, have registered it, and will be handling the flag, but they can’t do it on their own. Portland will march with a stunning 300 feet of newly-sewn sections before these sections join the rest of the River of Pride flag on its journey through New York City for Stonewall 50 and World Pride on Sunday June 30th.
The flag will require 15 official flag handlers who will sign up ahead of time and at least 150 spectators will be needed to help carry it during our celebration on June 15th. Those wishing to help with carrying the flag should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be directed to the team.
We are all excited to have the flag infuse our streets again, particularly on this momentous fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, and to watch it go on to other celebrations and continue to grow and flow through more communities.
OUT cast Radio Interview
OUT cast WMPG May 6th 2019 Click Here for Interview
Portland shows its pride
By The Forecaster on June 21, 2016
Participants carry a 900-foot “River of Pride” flag along Congress Street during the Portland Pride parade on Saturday, June 18. The annual celebration of the LGBTQ community drew thousands of people in downtown Portland.