Marcher holds up balloons shaped into a heart during the Orlando Pride parade at Lake Eola on Oct. 14, 2017. (Photo: Cynthia Ramirez)

Co-written by Cynthia Ramirez

Gay, straight, black, white, young and old — all were welcomed as thousands of Orlandoans gathered at Lake Eola Saturday to celebrate and embrace Orlando’s LGBT community.

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“The energy was coming from all around, literally 360 there was just so much hype,” Xavier Quiñones a UCF student who danced in the parade with the Red Bull float, said. “I was expecting energy, but this was way more than I expected.” 

Attendees enjoyed themselves by visiting the tents of businesses and organizations, getting their faces painted or listening to the Orlando Gay Chorus at the rainbow-colored amphitheater.

The atmosphere of the event was overwhelmingly lively and embracing to anyone present. People wore their “Orlando United” shirts, waved rainbow flags and carried free hugs signs.

The parade started at 4 p.m., and lasted for two hours as organizations and businesses marched around Lake Eola and through the downtown Orlando. Notable parade marchers included Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando), Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh and Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph.

“It was so much fun because it was so different,” said Monica Tejeda, a UCF student who walked in the parade. “It was crazy to be surrounded by that kind of positive energy.”

As the parade concluded the day was far from over. The thousands who had gathered for the event stayed in the Lake Eola area to enjoy the festivities from food and drink to the fireworks that concluded the night.

The City Beautiful showed its support and love for the gay community and proved that Orlando is a city united.