Oslo Pride Takes Over the Town

By Jenna Herrick

A member of the Filipino-Norwegian LGBTI. group wore an elaborate headdress. Photo by Dalton Spangler
Member of the Filipino-Norwegian LGBTI. Photo by Dalton Spangler.

The streets of Oslo were bursting with the colors of the rainbow and filled with music as the 36th annual Oslo Pride parade marched along to celebrate diversity.

Tens of thousands of people marched in the parade on June 21, with groups ranging from the police and military,  a BDSM fetish club to, The Women’s March, and a group advocating sex workers’ rights.

Oslo Pride has a way of bringing people together. Jennifer Priest and Camila Endresen met each other on the Ringen Via Toyen metro on their way to the pride parade. All it took was the simple question, “Are you going to Pride?” and they immediately bonded.

Endresen has been attending the Oslo Pride parade since she was only a teen in 1995. Priest moved to Norway from San Francisco ten years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She said she has been an active participant in the pride parade for nine years.

The event started at 1 p.m. in Oslo’s Grønland neighborhood and ended five kilometers later at Pride Park in downtown Oslo, after roughly three hours of celebrating. Last year more than 100,000 people participated in the event. This year the parade route was packed with humanity from Grønland to the National Theater. People in the upbeat crowd were wearing colorful costumes, waving rainbow flags and chanting “Happy Pride!”

Floats glided down the parade route as organizations waved rainbow flags yelling “Happy Pride.” Photo by Shannon Kehoe
Floats glided down the parade route as organizations waved rainbow flags yelling “Happy Pride.” Photo by Shannon Kehoe

The Skeiv Ungdom float, sponsored by a youth LGBT group, was filled with colorfully-garbed people dancing and singing along to the upbeat pop standards blaring from the huge speakers mounted on the truck.

The reaction of the crowd, as the truck slowly moved down the street, resembled people doing the wave at a sporting event. As soon as the first strains of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” or Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman” could be heard, the spectators began to sway and sing along.

When The Village People’s iconic gay anthem, “YMCA,” started to play, the unexpected happened. No one in the crowd busted out the arm movements spelling out Y, M, C and A. They smiled. They sang, but they did not do the dance.

Martin, 23, Alexandra, 19 and Lene, 46, were watching from the doorway of Illums Bolighus, the upscale Scandinavian furniture where they work. Martin said he wished he could be out watching on the street and Alexandra chimed in and said they had been taking turns running to the sidewalk to get close. As the thudding beat of “YMCA” passed in front of the store, the two said they didn’t realize there are movements to the song, but Lene said, “Oh yes, there are!” When pressed she said she wouldn’t dance, though, because she is “too shy,” but added she would have danced “if anyone else had started.”

A sea of people

According to Visit Norway, Oslo’s first gay pride celebration – called “Gay Days” – was held in 1982; the name was changed to Oslo Pride in 2014. Oslo Pride aims “to make gay culture visible and contribute to increased acceptance and respect for the gay part of the capital’s diverse population,” according to Oslo Pride. The organization boasts that Oslo Pride is the largest pride celebration in Norway, with 80 volunteers who work year-round to prepare for the event. Another 300 individuals volunteer during the week-long festival.

As the Pride Parade goes by, the tell-tale roar of the Jurassic Park T-rex is heard, disrupting the usual chants and tunes. A truck bearing a familiar logo comes down the street. It’s Bearassic Park. Attached to the back of the truck is a float packed with men in costumes, most dressed as cavemen and one or two in T-rex costumes, all dancing to the song, “Walk the Dinosaur.”

Video: Getting Bearassic

These are the Norway Bears, a large gay meet-up service for all of Norway. Founded in 1999, the group is dedicated to supporting and providing social networking for mature gay men in Norway, and is easily recognized by its bear-oriented theme.

The Norway Bears float was a big hit with the crowds, with spectators cheering and applauding for the dance routine the float occupants performed. But this wasn’t the only contribution the Bears made to Pride Fest. The group’s booth in Pride Park features a stage where the men gave an encore performance of their “Walk the Dinosaur” dance. Their booth hosts bingo games, slam poetry and rock performances, as well.

Corporate boost

Oslo Pride’s corporate sponsors are very proud to show their support. TGI Fridays changed their name to TGI Pridays and decorated the outside of their restaurants with pride colors for the duration of Oslo Pride. Wella Professionals had a booth at Pride Park to provide hairstyling services. Comfort Inn installed a large bouquet of balloons outside the hotel to celebrate the occasion. Companies from IBM to Ikea sponsored units in the parade.

Patricia, originally from Scotland, walked down the street wearing bright butterfly wings emblazoned with the word “Olafiaklinikken.” Patricia works at Olafiaklinikken, the main sexual health clinic in Oslo, providing testing and treatment to Oslo’s citizens. It’s her third year in the Oslo Pride Parade and she said it’s important, “to have this diversity and to celebrate being different,” and acknowledging that there’s a place for everyone.

Entrance to the parade was free except for businesses and organizations, which were required to register in advance.

Photo gallery: Scenes from Oslo Pride Parade 2018

Members of the Norwegian Labor Party prepare their firetruck to do duty as a float in Oslo Pride parade. Photo by Stacie Chandler
Many people on floats wore little to no clothing, like this person on Trollkrem Imports parade. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Ruby Diamond leading the Norway Bears through the parade. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Politics played a part in the Oslo Pride parade as these marchers from the university, OsloMet, show. Photo by Dalton Spangler

Video: Dorthea | First time marcher

(This story was written by Jenna Herrick. Also contributing to this story were Shannon Kehoe, Ethan Reddish, Jessie Shiflett, Dalton Spangler, and Stacie Chandler.)