MEMORIES, CELEBRATION MINGLE AT ANNUAL PRIDEFEST GATHERING
Politics plays a low-key role at PrideFest in Lake Worth this year, but families are front and center.

Pat Beall
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, April 04, 2005 - LAKE WORTH For Elizabeth d'Arc Tousignant, Sunday's 13th annual PrideFest parade was a family affair.

Flanked by two of her daughters, the Lake Worth grandmother with the pink beret pulled her wheelchair to the very edge of the sidewalk, the better to watch.

"It's a family tradition," she said, a way to honor the memory of her son, Vincent. Long before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 42, she knew Vincent was gay: "Before he ever told me." When he died, his mother and 10 brothers and sisters knew just how to honor his memory.

"He died in the morning, and that afternoon, we put on our finest attire and went to a gay pride parade," said his sister, Jeanne d'Arc Tousignant.

Family members have been coming to gay pride parades ever since. Sunday marked the fourth year Jeanne d'Arc Tousignant has attended PrideFest in Lake Worth.

"Each year it gets more elaborate," she said. "There are more families, more acceptance, more diversity."

PrideFest is organized by Lake Worth's Compass Inc., considered one of the 10 largest gay and lesbian community centers in the country.

It's not certain the record-breaking 10,000 attendees predicted for this year's event materialized. A Saturday rainstorm kept attendance down the first day of the festival.

Sunday, though parade day was cloudless.

High points of the march from South J Street included the Flamingo Freedom Band, complete with pith helmets and flamingo-festooned sashes. Dolphin Democrats, a South Florida political group, threw candy into the crowd, Mardi Gras-style. A giant silver slipper rolled down J Street.

Recent Lake Worth mayoral candidate Peter Tsolkas donned a multicolored chiffon skirt to play rhythm in the Bringin' the Heat drum and bugle corp. Dozens of motorcycles followed.

Onlookers spilled into the street and followed them, Pied Piper-style, to Bryant Park. There, a $5 admission fee earned access to 120 vendors, live music and 1950s-era carnival games.

Politics was less in evidence than in 2003, when Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank delivered a fiery call to organize and vote. But voter registration booths reported steady interest.

Blue plastic wrist bands were being sold to raise money for political parties. "Think ahead to 2006," a hawker urged.

The most obvious indications of political change, though, were the people in the park. Several pushed baby strollers. The parade's grand marshals retired math and science teacher Bob Pingpank and Rev. Richard Nolan, a retired priest in residence at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Lake Worth are celebrating their 50th year together as a couple.

Then there's the d'Arc Tousignant family.

Before leaving for Sunday's parade, they put a box with some of Vincent d'Arc Tousignant's favorite things "fairy dust and a tiara," said his sister Jeanne on the mantle.

"We are a gay family in more ways than one," said his mother.

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