Burlington Pride: A Celebration of Metamorphosis


Burlington celebrating pride. Photo by: Neale Kelley (’26).

Drums pounded rhythmically in the distance, and the crowd became alight with murmurs that it was finally beginning. The streets were bursting with people in all manner of dress and expression, many of them covered in specific colors meaningful to them and their identities. There were people with flags secured around their shoulders like capes, others waving these same flags from prominent places above the crowds, others wearing these colored stripes as pins or t-shirts. The meaning, however it was expressed, was the same.

Not long after the sound of drums came the first glimpses of those who played them. Watchers peeked out into the street, trying to catch a glimpse, see how far out they were, see how long they had to wait until it all started. A massive white banner headed the parade, presumably bearing words but so folded over it was nearly impossible to tell what it said. The message, however, was clear from the giant cardboard butterflies that followed it: welcome, everybody, to a celebration of metamorphosis.

On Sunday, Sept. 18, the city of Burlington celebrated its 39th annual pride parade. The city of Burlington observes Pride, a celebration of LGBTQ+ people and their struggles throughout history, during September. Celebrations of this sort typically occur in June, it being the official pride month for the LGBTQ+ community; however, since the population of Burlington largely consists of college students who wouldn’t be able to attend in June, the city decided to shift festivities to September. The parade began at 12:30 p.m. at the south end of Church Street, proceeded down through Church Street, and wove its way down to the Waterfront Park, where further celebration occurred.

The parade itself was full of just as much color as those watching it: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity, purple for spirit. Older variants of the flag also included pink for sexuality and turquoise for art, while newer variants include black and brown to represent BIPOC members of the community. People carried umbrellas in these colors as well as signs and posters. They wore beads and t-shirts and dresses. They both wore and waved flags the same as those in the crowds, blurring fabulously together in a fantastic display of life. 

As with any parade, things were handed to those watching, including flowers, flags, signs, candy, and, most humorously for me, various types of squashes (handed out by a grocer). The festivities attracted many organizations  who tried to make a statement about themselves and their ideals: this included corporations like Ben and Jerrys and El Gato Cantina, religions groups such as Reform Jewish Congregation and St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as those campaigning for political roles such as Peter Welch and Becca Balint. Educational groups also participated, such as Full Circle Preschool, the Fletcher Free Library, and even our own Champlain College, which carried various signs proclaiming “Champ Pride.” 

Eden Bouchard (‘26), a Champlain College student, said afterwards, “the energy of the parade was great, it was so nice to hang out with friends and experience it together.”

A heavy rain began not long after the end of the parade. Many had the foresight to bring umbrellas (many of them colored for the rainbow, fittingly), but even those who had protection found themselves wet yet cheerful. There was something poetically fitting about it, in that rainbows can’t be formed without rain, community and pride can’t be achieved without hardship. And here we were as a group, experiencing rain, experienced in hardship, yet a cheerful, lively community in spite of it.

The celebration at Waterfront Park kept the theme of metamorphosis alive. The festival was intended to celebrate observing the changes we as individuals go through in finding ourselves, coming out and all the struggles that come with that, and finally being able to live authentically. Again, the fittingness of the rain was apparent.

The festivities included dancing, drag shows, food and drink, and an appearance by special guest Alec Mapa. Mapa, an actor and comedian, has starred on television shows such as “Half & Half,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Switched at Birth.” During his speech at the festival, he spoke about his own experiences as a gay man and about the importance of community. Afterwards, in a tweet, he called Burlington’s festivities “lovely and wholesome,” a sentiment many Champlain College students share. 

“It makes me really happy being able to show younger LGBT+ people that there are other people like them and there is a ton of support for them. Nothing is more important than that for me and pride did a very good job of that,” one Champlain student shared. 

Atticus Clark (‘26) agreed: “It was awesome seeing so many people crowded together to celebrate queer identities, especially since everyone still came despite the rain.”

The parade, although it was rained on in a literal sense, was far from it in a metaphoric sense. The Burlington LGBTQ+ community is a bright one, full of color, life, and vibrancy, as noted by the parade’s attendees. The 39th annual celebration was a successful one, and I’m sure the people of Burlington will be looking forward to celebrations to come.