SALEM — The city's first North Shore Pride Parade will be held here Saturday.
The noontime parade, which is expected to draw hundreds of marchers, highlights a full day of activities sponsored by North Shore Pride, a new organization formed this year to support the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community on the North Shore.
More than 50 groups, from churches to community organizations, are marching, some with floats and banners.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is scheduled to take part along with mayors from Lynn and Newburyport and numerous other local officials. Congressman John Tierney and his Republican opponent Richard Tisei, who is gay, also are marching.
Randy Price of Channel 5 in Boston, an openly gay newscaster, is the parade marshal. Boston Herald sports writer Steve Buckley, who wrote a "coming out" column last year, is a special guest.
Although held in Salem, the parade and festival are for the entire region, organizers said.
"I really want the message to get out that we want people to engage from all over the North Shore," said Hope Watt-Bucci, president of North Shore Pride.
Events begin at 9 a.m. on Salem Common with more than 45 vendors selling food and merchandise. Several local religious leaders will hold a prayer service at 10 a.m.
The parade steps off at noon in front of the post office on Margin Street. It will proceed down New Derby and Derby streets, turn left onto Hawthorne Boulevard and finish at Salem Common.
A North Shore Pride festival on the Common begins at 1 p.m. with remarks by Driscoll, Price and others. Music and entertainment stop at 5 p.m., but activities continue with an after-party at the Hawthorne Hotel until 10 p.m. The party is free and open to the public.
Watt-Bucci, the founder of North Shore Pride, said she decided to start an organization that would advocate for the gay community and educate the public following a series of incidents on the North Shore and an array of national stories on bullying and anti-gay activities.
"For me, it felt like the right time," she said.
The parade, she said, is the culmination of the group's inaugural year, a chance to come together and send a positive message.
"We want to bring people together to celebrate diversity in our community," Watt-Bucci said. "We want to let people know that LGBT persons are living in your community and to try to take the mystique out of being LGBT. They're your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. ...
"Like any parade, it's to show unity with our community and just to celebrate all we've been through and to thank our community for their support. ... If you just want to learn more about our community, come on down. We'd love to have you."
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.