Pic: The House of Lancaster Artworks

The 14th annual Pink Loerie Festival came to a colourful close on Saturday afternoon with the customary parade that brought out local and visiting gays and lesbians onto the streets of Knysna.

The marchers, floats, spectators and many of the shop fronts donned pink for the occasion; a celebration of diversity and of the LGBTI community.

The parade included a colourful rhino float, a classic Volkswagen Beetle in pink, a band as well as two notable participants; Mr Gay South Africa, Werner de Waal, and Mr Gay World, Christopher Olwage, who flew in from New Zealand.

Olwage, who was born in South Africa but emigrated over a decade ago, wrote on Facebook that his return to the country for the festival was “a milestone” in his life.

“When I left SA those 12 years ago there was hope in my eyes. Hope that I would be able to be myself one day, that I would be strong, that I would be confident and that people would accept me for who I am. Now I have tears in my eyes. 12 years later I am back and I have been treated like royalty. A community has endorsed me, companies have sponsored me and people have been unbelievably beautiful,” he said.

The parade’s Best Float prize went to the Knysna Animal Welfare Society, the Best Window Display to Harry B’s and the Best Dressed to Monique Walker.

The five day festival featured a host of events, including charity fundraising dinners and an auction, comedy, drag and cabaret shows, a daily fleamarket and live music and parties.

Two pageants, always popular at the festival, saw Victoria Styles crowned Miss Mardi Gras and Mortimer van der Westhuizen winning the Mr. Mardi Gras title.

“It’s about getting people together to celebrate life and celebrate freedom but it’s also about giving back to the community,” Festival Director John O’Neil told Mambaonline.


Pic: The House of Lancaster Artworks

He revealed that the festival’s events had raised over R23,000, which will be divided between three charities: the Loeriehof Old Age Home, Knysna Animal Welfare and the Mayor’s Social Relief Fund.

O’Neil also said that the festival provided a significant boost to the economy of the area during a traditionally slow period for tourism. “We had quite a lot off hotels and B&Bs thanking us for the influx of business in the town. Many were fully booked or overbooked.”

He added that the municipality and Knysna Tourism had given the event “amazing support” and that he and his team were already at work planning next’s year’s Pink Loerie.

View our 2014 Pink Loerie Parade gallery here.

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