The brand-new rainbow crosswalk across from New Paltz Village Hall got its first big workout last Sunday afternoon, as the 2018 Pride March made its way into Hasbrouck Park to kick off the LGBTQ Pride Festival that has been held there every June since 2005. “Pride is going incredible,” reported Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center executive director Jeff Rindler as more and more revelers poured into the park. “It looks like we’re going to have close to 3,000 people here. We had about 800 marchers signed up, which is our largest event to date. We have 40 percent more vendors…and lots of incredible sponsors this year.”
Rindler praised the cooperation that the Kingston-based Center receives year after year from New Paltz municipal officials, police and public works employees. “The Village of New Paltz has been very supportive of the March,” he said.
It was a cloudy day, comfortably cool, and the rain held off, allowing the March and Festival to draw and keep an engaged and relaxed crowd. The parade stepped off from the middle school at 1 p.m., led by the activist marching band Tin Horn Uprising. Some of its members swirled ribbons on sticks, setting an upbeat, theatrical tone that permeated the entire event. They were closely followed by the parade’s two Grand Marshals, community organizer Callie Jayne and youth activist Hanna Peterson, who filled the air with soap bubbles as they waved from the back seat of an open convertible.
Wave after wave of marchers followed, mostly on foot, some on wheels — including several carloads of elderly LGBTQ clients of the group Sage Hudson Valley, a squad of young female skateboarders from Gardiner’s Majestic Skate Group and roller-derby queens from the Hudson Valley Horrors and Mid-Hudson Misfits, the latter chanting “Skate, don’t hate!” There were large retinues of students from area schools’ Gay/Straight Alliances, Human Rights Clubs, GLSEN and PFLAG groups. Faith communities were well-represented, with at least half a dozen local congregations participating.
Politicians and candidates for office weren’t shy about turning out, either, in this year of yearning for change. State Senate hopeful Jen Metzger of Rosendale marched with the contingent of local officials bearing the Village of New Paltz banner. And at least five of the Democratic contenders for the 19th Congressional District seat marched, waved and glad-handed the cheering crowd: Jeff Beals, Dave Clegg, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn and Gareth Rhodes were all spotted. It seems that, in 2018, being an ally of the LGBTQ community is being regarded as more of an asset than a liability at the polls. Even a representative of governor Andrew Cuomo, Ron Zacchi, was on hand to present a proclamation officially deeming June LGBTQ Pride Month in New York State.
As Rindler pointed out with respect to the event’s growing list of sponsors, business interests seem to be finding their comfort level with Pride Month. Among the businesses either carrying banners in the March or setting up booths at the Festival were a number of financial institutions and insurers, along with the usual health care providers. Festival vendors seeing LGBTQ folks as potential clients included wedding venues, health clubs and even a laser hair-removal service. Not-for-profit advocacy organizations abounded, of course.
The performing arts are key to the imaginative, lighthearted mood favored by LGBTQ-themed public events, and this one was no exception. Some school groups brought their own marching bands. Several theatrical troupes marched in costume, including Black Magic Burlesque, a Rocky Horror Picture Show “shadowcast” and the usual array of professional drag performers. Festivity was the order of the day, with parade marchers tossing handfuls of candy as if it were Mardi Gras and Festival booths handing out all sorts of swag. Live music in the Festival’s big tent began with more from Tin Horn Uprising, giving way to the rock band Big Sister and hip-hop artist Elijah Royal.
According to Rindler, this year’s event was organized around the theme “Stand Together,” emphasizing the intersectionality of issues of gender identity and sexual orientation with other social justice concerns such as race, class, religion and immigration status. “We need to unite with all groups of marginalized people and fight back,” he said. For 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that first galvanized the gay rights movement, the goal will be to “bring all the LGBTQ centers throughout the Hudson Valley and the Capital District together with a universal message.”
For information about upcoming local events for the rest of Pride Month – including a “Queer the Vote” NY19 Candidate Forum at the Beverly in Kingston on June 21 – call (845) 331-5300 or visit www.lgbtqcenter.org.