Minneapolis and St. Paul, two Minnesota cities that come together each June to celebrate the LGBT parade, attract more than 400,000 visitors during the week-long series of events.
The first gay march of 50 people was held in 1972 at Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. It was held on June 25 - the third anniversary of the Stonewall riots - and was organized by members of several local LGBT organizations. This small group marched for two hours and gave speeches. In the years that followed, they added more activities, including picnics, barbecues, dances, educational forums, and public gatherings. Attendance steadily increased, reaching 100,000 for the first time in 1995.
In 1996, Twin Cities Pride was further expanded with the addition of an additional music stage to add more fun to the existing marketplace booths and nonprofit stands. This expansion continued throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, with more booths added each year, along with floats from corporate sponsors such as supermarkets Target and Best Buy, Inc. The Twin Cities LGBT Parade is also known as the Ashley Rukes Parade in honor of the late Ashley Rukes, a former parade organizer who was an active transgender LGBT rights activist in Minnesota throughout her life. The number of participants has been steadily increasing, and according to the St. Paul Tourism Authority (2020), there are currently about 400,000 visitors per year.
Many gay bars can be found on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.
One of the largest parties during the parade is the block party held at Saloon Bar, which is an annual event that local gays and lesbians look forward to, as the street outline where Saloon Bar is located is enclosed in a party arena.