Love Parade Debuts in Germany's Ruhr

The Associated Press
Saturday, August 25, 2007; 10:39 PM

ESSEN, Germany -- More than 1 million revelers, many scantily dressed, danced their way through the streets of Essen Saturday to sound of whistles blowing and techno music for the Love Parade's debut in its new home _ western Germany's industrial Ruhr region.

Once a popular annual fixture of the streets of Berlin, the parade _ staged under the motto "Love is Everywhere" _ was the first of five planned for the sprawling Ruhr area. Over the next four years, it will travel to the neighboring cities of Dortmund, Bochum, Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen.

With some 1,000 organizers and hundreds of police officers in place to keep order, 27 floats paraded through downtown Essen in fine summer weather for the daylong party.

An estimated 1.2 million people flooded the city's streets for the event, Essen Mayor Wolfgang Reiniger said.

"You don't get this in any disco _ and the people are great," said Jenny Gesella, who traveled with her husband, Frank, from Salzgitter in northern Germany. She was baring her midrift in a cowboy outfit and declared she "would have worn it in any weather."

Police reported no major problems, although one young man was admitted to a hospital with a stab wound.

Organizers hope to put years of organizational and financial problems behind them with the move.

The Berlin parade grew from a 1989 peace demonstration into a huge outdoor celebration of club culture that drew about 1.5 million people at its peak in 1999.

However, financial problems forced the cancellation of the increasingly commercialized event in 2004 and 2005. The parade returned last year, attracting between 500,000 and 700,000 people, but organizers failed to reach an agreement with city officials on this year's event.

The Ruhr is hoping to reinvent itself as a postindustrial region and increasingly trying to attract tourists.

Some parade-goers thought the move made the event better than ever.

"It's even better here than in Berlin," said Benjamin Kaufmann, from the western town of Herford. "The music is cooler."

© 2007 The Associated Press