Kaye Crawford started the Reno Gay Pride Parade 12 years ago.

Kaye Crawford

Kaye Crawford is founder of the Reno Gay Pride Parade. It takes place Sat., Aug 16. Beginning at 11 a.m. at the Sands Regency downtown, proud marchers will go down Virginia Street to Wingfield Park, where bands, food, and vendors will entertain until 8 p.m. $5 for admission at Wingfield. For more information, visit www.renogaypride.com.

How did you get involved in the Reno Pride Parade?

Twelve years ago, when my friend Bill Metz was murdered for being a gay man, and we needed more support from the community, and we got support from the police, and decided to start standing up for our rights as gay people, I decided to have a gay pride celebration for recognition and to come out of the closet. And unfortunately, that’s how [Bill] came out to his family, was through his murder.

You lived in Reno then?

I lived in Reno for 14 years, and now I go back and forth between Sacramento and Reno. So I have two homes.

What can we expect this year?

Expect a lot of fun and a lot of recognition in the fact that we do belong, that we are equal, that we’re not a threat, that we don’t impose our lifestyle any more than we’d want others to impose on us, and we have the freedom to be and have the courage to stand up for human rights and courage. But mostly for fun—everyone’s encouraged to come out, families and children, to an event with lots of vendors, food, lots of entertainment. … We’ve had a lot of support from local bands and entertainers and performers. And of course, a parade is a fun thing to be able to come out and express yourself and just be you as an individual with a group of people you can be comfortable with, walking down the street holding hands with your partner. Whether you’re straight or gay, it shouldn’t matter.

Has the reception at the parade changed much over the years?

Oh, it’s changed tremendously. The recognition the Gay Pride parade gives the community—people are nonchalant now. This used to be a redneck community, and people were afraid to come out for fear of being fired or whatever, and now it’s old hat—just another gay day week in Reno.

Is Reno a good place to be gay?

It totally is now. People are reaching into the gay community because there’s a lot of revenue. Reno is being known as a travel destination, and gay people have a lot more funds for various reasons, so I think the fear is gone. And the theme this year is Live, Love and Laugh with Pride. You live with who you are, and you just laugh and have fun, and you’re just proud of who you are. To me, it’s a dream come true.

When did you come out?

At that period of time, because I was fired from a well-known company there for being an activist and standing up for gay rights. And that was harsh because I was a darned good employee. That gave me the courage to do what I did. … Cheer San Francisco is our grand marshal this year. … They’re high-energy and have acrobatic routines where they go high up in the air. … Every year they’ve been here, they laugh and take buckets and go through the crowd and raise money for the community and AIDS foundations. And it’s such hard times now, the funding is being cut from federal and state and whatever, they raise very much-needed funds for organizations, especially AIDS-related. … I had cancer three years ago and wasn’t sure what would happen with the parade. I had colon cancer, and it was pretty serious, but I came through, and the 10th year they made me grand marshal, and it was such a great honor for me. … Then, of course, the police department will be marching for the first time in the state of Nevada. I insisted, and said ‘You don’t have it in writing, do you, that you can’t march in any parade?’ And they said, ‘Well, nooooo.’ … So we made headway there.